Underneath, The Life and Art of Gregory Gillespie

John Thornton Films

“A character in a Bruce Springsteen song sings, “Maybe you got a kid, maybe you got a pretty wife, the only thing that I got been bothering me my whole life.” The painter Gregory Gillespie was not that guy. He had a lot in his life including worldly success, loyal friends, a family, and an absolute genius for art. But I do think he also had something that bothered him his whole life.

I met him once when I was a drunken art student and he came to an opening of an important group show of realists that he was in at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. I was in the men’s room, and looked over as I was urinating and there he was standing next to me. I yelled his name, stuck out my hand, and he shook it. He was the nicest famous artist I have ever met.

In 1977 when Gregory was only 40 years old, he had a retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC. In 2000, age 63, he hung himself.” – John Thornton

Life and career

Gregory Gillespie was born in Roselle Park, New Jersey. After graduating from high school, he became a nondegree student at Cooper Union in New York. In 1959 he married Frances Cohen (1939–1998), who was also an artist, and the following year they moved to San Francisco where Gillespie studied at the San Francisco Art Institute.

In 1962 he received the first of two Fulbright-Hays grants, for travel to Italy to study the work of Masaccio. He lived and worked in Florence for two years, and in Rome for six years, studying the works of such Renaissance masters as Carpaccio, Mantegna, and Carlo Crivelli, who was a particular favorite of Gillespie. During this time he was awarded three Chester Dale Fellowships and a Louis Comfort Tiffany grant. In 1971 he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member, and became a full Academician in 1994.

He had his first solo show in 1966, at the Forum Gallery in New York. In 1970 he returned to the United States, where he settled in Williamsburg, Massachusetts. He exhibited in several Whitney Biennials, and in 1977 the Hirshhorn Museum organized a touring retrospective of his work.

Gregory Gillespie became known for meticulously painted figurative paintings, landscapes, and self portraits, often with a fantastical element. Many of his early works were made by painting over photographs cut from newspapers or magazines, transforming the scenes through photographic collage and by adding imaginary elements. In his later work he abandoned his early fascination with creating hyper-realized realistic imagery, instead focusing on a looser and more expressive style. He often combined media in an unorthodox way to create shrine-like assemblages.

He was found dead in his studio in Belchertown, Massachusetts, apparently a suicide by hanging, on April 26, 2000.” – Wikipedia

Gregory Gillespie, John Thornton Films, Forum GalleryGregory Gillespie, Self Portrait in Blue Hooded Sweatshirt, Forum Gallery

Thank you to John Thornton Films for permission to share this enthralling video.

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