WRIGHT FRANK WRIGHT (Age 87) Artist and educator, died on August 9, 2020 at his home in Washington, DC, of natural causes. With a long, prolific career as a painter, printmaker, and educator, Frank's life was one of unbound curiosity, tremendous intensity and drive, humor and wit, as well as profound generosity, fellowship, and love of family.
Born October 10, 1932 in Washington, DC, Frank (John Franklin Wright, Jr.) grew up in Kenilworth, NE\, Washington, DC, with parents John Franklin Wright, Sr., Margaret Young Wright, and sister Rosalind. Graduating Eastern High School, DCPS (1950), he pursued a robust education through scholarships and fellowships, earning his BA in Fine Arts (1954) from American University, where he met his wife of 63 years, Mary Dow Wright. He received an MA in Art History (1960) from the University of Illinois, after spending two years of research with Bernard Berenson at his Villa I Tatti (Italy). With a Paul J. Sachs Fellowship, he studied printmaking, working with the print collections (1959-1960) of Lessing J. Rosenwald (Alverthorpe and National Gallery of Art) and the Fogg Museum, Harvard University, including curatorial/connoisseurship coursework with John Coolidge. This was followed by three years printmaking with William Stanley Hayter at his Paris Atelier 17 (1961-1964).
Returning to DC in the mid 60s, he focused on engraving and deep-bite etching. By the late 60s, his art increasingly depicted his young daughter and wife with intimate glimpses of everyday life. Frank's impact as an educator is among his greatest legacies. He taught master drawing techniques to thousands of students over 60+ years. He was also a generous mentor, passionate about expanding his students' horizons. He retired at age 82 as Professor Emeritus of Drawing and Graphic Arts from the George Washington University, where he had taught since 1970.
A realist, Frank delighted in everyday moments, imbuing history with life, and capturing the light and atmospheric beauty of the natural world. With a methodical process and master craftsmanship, his careful planning led to canvases of subtle, yet bold composition with luminous color from layered oil glazes and bravura brushwork. Frank's studio was the beating heart of his unwavering, artistic practice from 1964-2018. For over thirty years, he worked from the historic LeDroit Building overlooking the National Portrait Gallery. In 1996, he moved to Columbia Plaza, near GWU, which served as his artistic center for another 22 years. An artist-historian, Frank made a significant contribution to our understanding of DC's past.
The fifth-generation Washingtonian researched and painted his contemporary DC life and transformed forgotten DC past into atmospheric present from Civil War Washington to FDR's 1940 inaugural parade. Frank exhibited widely in DC and nationally, including notable solo exhibitions at the Corcoran Gallery of Art (1980), at Kennedy Galleries, NYC, which represented Frank for many years, and most recently at the Cosmos Club (2019), where he had been a member since 1989. His commissions included paintings for NASA and the US House of Representatives. Frank's work can be found in many public and private collections.
Frank loved people and built lasting friendships with former students, colleagues, and people he encountered in everyday life. The Chesapeake Bay was Frank's DC retreat and the beloved subject of many works. Paris was his 2nd city; he returned regularly to rejuvenate, visit favorite artworks, coming home with ideas for new paintings. Voraciously curious, Frank frequented museums for first-hand study, finding inspiration in artists from Vermeer to N.C. Wyeth. Collecting 19th century diaries and photographica, including an extensive collection of daguerreotypes, would lead him to further research in archives and city records, and conversations with experts and still-living relatives regarding his discoveries.
Frank is survived by his wife, Mary Dow Wright; daughter Suzanne Wright; son-in-law Rustin Quaide; granddaughter Adrianna Quaide; sister Rosalind Wright Duckett (John), nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held in Spring 2021.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Frank Wright Young Artist Fund, National Society of Arts and Letters, Washington, DC Chapter, which awarded Frank his 1st scholarship.
Checks may be sent to NSAL-DC, Treasurer, 401 12th St. South, Ste 920, Arlington, VA 22202.