Of Nuns & Balloons: Robert Vickrey

Andréa Fernandes

Two weeks ago, reader Andrea J. requested a post on the American artist Robert Vickrey, a favorite of hers. Not much information is available (online, at least) about Vickrey, but I've managed to round up a few highlights:

1. According to sources, Robert Vickrey created 78 covers for TIME magazine over the course of 11 years, from 1957 to 1968. Only 31 covers are available on the magazine's web site, though. Vickrey wrote a memoir titled Time Traveler about his stint working for TIME magazine. Although the memoir is unpublished, the Smithsonian Archives of American Art contain a copy in its collection of Robert Vickrey papers.

2. Vickrey's chosen medium is the "ancient medium" of egg tempera, which is a paint made by mixing pigments with egg, especially egg yolk, to produce a "dull finish." Considered an expert on the medium, and one of the most prominent artists of the medium, Vickrey has written two books about egg tempera painting.

3. For 51 years, the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul (based in New York) were the focus of most of Vickrey's paintings. The distinctive white headpieces in Vickrey's paintings are those that were worn by "Mothers;" "Sisters" wore smaller, plainer headpieces. Vickrey has written a book with Ronald Miller documenting his use of the sisters as his subject for so many years.

4. Vickrey is referred to as an "American Surrealist" and a "Magic Realist." With an interest in the exploration of hidden meanings in life, Vickrey makes extensive use of symbolism, such as placing targets over people's hearts. Some of his frequent images include balloons, bicycles, brick walls, chalk drawings, the elderly, and the young, in addition to the nuns.

5. Vickrey's career hasn't been limited just to painting. He has also worked as a commercial illustrator and made short films for 10 years, from 1947 to 1957.

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Larger versions of Vickrey's "Rainbow Mural" (shown at top) and "Small Sparkler" (shown above) are available. Fans should check out the Robert Vickrey collections at Tree's Place, F.B. Horowitz Fine Art, ACA Galleries, and Ro Gallery; his mural for Reagan National Airport; and his 1964 work "Nun and the Arch," which Andrea J. describes as "simple, yet beautiful." "Feel Art Again" appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. You can e-mail us at feelartagain@gmail.com artist suggestions, with details of current exhibitions, or for sources or further reading.