Artist, art educator and University of Texas at Austin Professor Emeritus Kelly Fearing died on March 13 at his home in Austin, at the age of 92 due to congestive heart failure.
Fearing was a professor emeritus in university’s Department of Art and Art History. He taught at the university from 1947-87, and was presented the College of Fine Arts‘ E. William Doty Award in 2007, the college’s highest honor recognizing him as an individual of distinction in his field who has demonstrated extraordinary interest in the college.
“Kelly Fearing was the quintessential Renaissance man,” said College of Fine Arts Associate Dean Ken Hale. “He was an artist, an author and an educator. His talent was extraordinary. He worked in almost all traditional mediums and excelled in oil painting and collage. Fearing was very well educated in all of the arts and enthusiastically passed that knowledge on to literally thousands of students. The University of Texas and the state of Texas have benefited greatly from the creativity and generosity of Kelly Fearing. His passing is a loss for us all.”
Born in Fordyce, Ark., Fearing was raised in Louisiana, studied art at Louisiana Tech University, earned a master’s degree from Columbia University and went to Fort Worth during World War II to serve his country in a defense job. While being trained in graphic drafting for a company that was making bombers for the U.S. military, Fearing was introduced to other aspiring artists in the Fort Worth area. This group of avant-guard printmakers and artists became known as the Fort Worth Circle, and Fearing was one of its core members. Collectively, they were instrumental in introducing modernist ideas to Texas art.
After teaching at Texas Wesleyan College from 1945-47, he came to The University of Texas at Austin as the Ashbel Smith Professor in Art in 1947. He retired from the university in 1987 and continued to work as a professional artist. His art has been referred to as magical realist, mystical naturalist and Romantic surrealist.
As a pioneer in art education in America, Fearing founded The University of Texas Junior Art Project, the first visual arts outreach program of its kind in Texas. The program offered children of all ages and from all economic backgrounds free, university-based instruction and exposure to the arts.
A memorial celebration of Kelly Fearing’s life and art will be on Saturday, April 23, from 5-7 p.m. at the Laguna Gloria Art Museum, 3809 West 35th Street, Austin.
Those who would like to make a contribution in honor of Kelly Fearing can contribute to the Kelly Fearing Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Art. For more information about making a gift, please contact Andrea Keene, 512-471-9270.