Artist & Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed


William Matthew Prior, The Artist as a Young Man: A Self Portrait, William Matthew Prior (1806-1873), 1825.  Oil on canvas, 23.5 x 19.5 in.  Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York

May 26–December 30, 2012

Artist and Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed, the first exhibition devoted solely to this American folk artist, includes over 40 oil paintings spanning his career from 1824 to 1856.  Through the mastery of his craft and his pragmatic marketing strategy, Prior was able to document the faces of middle-class Americans throughout his lifetime, making art accessible to a previously overlooked group.

A versatile artist, Prior is well known not only for the range of his technique but for the diversity of his sitters. Prior’s involvement with Millerism (early Adventism) was instrumental in his personal development as well as providing access to new clients, including many African-Americans.

The Henry Luce Foundation, as the foundation sponsor, provided partial funding for the exhibition and catalog Artist and Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed.  Funding also provided by the American Folk Art Society and the Beryl P. Haas Charitable Remainder Unitrust.