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Art in Odum Library – The Lamar Dodd Collection

by Michael Holt on August 23, 2011 in Odum Library

As part of an effort to highlight art in Odum Library, we will be featuring weekly blog posts that tell the stories of the collections we have on display. We will also be profiling a few of the more interesting pieces from each collection as well. The first collection we will spotlight is the Lamar Dodd Collection, located primarily on the north side of the first floor of the library. This collection features works by Dodd, his daughter Irene, and several other artists that Dodd either worked with or admired. What follows is a biography of Dodd, a short background of the collection, and a few examples of notable pieces.

Lamar Dodd Biography
Lamar Dodd (1909-1996) was not just the owner of most of the works in this collection that bears his name, but had personal links with several of the artists. He was a student of Jean Charlot at the Art Students League, he summered with Emil Holzhauer and Ferdinand Warren at Monhegan Island, Maine, and he encouraged Carl Holty, Ferdinand Warren, James Chan Leong and Jean Charlot to join him on the faculty of the University of Georgia, which resulted in permanent benefits to their careers and in one case, to another college in the state. In the wider realm of the art world, his legacy is two-fold: he left a rich body of work extending over decades that depicts everyday life in Georgia, and through his skill as an administrator and his eye for recruiting talent, he built the art department of the University of Georgia into one of the largest and most comprehensive in the United States, an effort that the University memorialized by naming the department the Lamar Dodd School of Art in his honor. He has also been described as “the most influential Georgia artist of his generation.”

Lamar Dodd was born in Fairburn and began his artistic training at LaGrange College, then a women’s college, at the age of twelve when he made a deal with the Dean for art lessons in exchange for shoveling coal and other chores. He studied briefly at Georgia Tech before going to the Art Students League in New York, where he studied with George Luks, an adherent of the Ashcan School, a movement that flourished in the first decade of the twentieth century and concentrated on depicting daily scenes of real life in sober colors. He was also influenced by John Steuart Curry and Thomas Hart Benton, who also celebrated American themes intheir work. Upon returning South, he followed these principles in his own work, which showed the landscapes, history, and people of his region to such an extent it was noticed by a reviewer in his first show in 1932. In 1937, as part of a national movement to get working artists into universities, Dodd was appointed to the faculty of the University of Georgia. Within three years he had not only consolidated all the visual arts into one department, but he had started a master’s program. He would remain there till his retirement as head of the department in 1976.

Although he continued to paint scenes of his native state, his subject matter expanded as he ranged further in his travels. In the 1940s, he began summering at Monhegan Island, Maine, adding the Maine coast as a source of inspiration, and in the 1950s, he began traveling abroad, first to Europe, where he studied the old masters and his more recent predecessors such as the Impressionists and Cezanne and painted European landmarks. He was later appointed by the State Department as a Cultural Emissary, and in that capacity visited Asia, the Middle East, and the Soviet Union.

The next two decades of his career saw a radical shift in subject matter: in 1963, Dodd was named as official artist by NASA on the Mercury Astronaut-9 project and also served as a NASA artist for many other launchings including Apollo 9. Some of his works were done as triptychs, with a bold, expressionist style, and in some cases using black and white to depict lunar glare against the darkness of space. In 1978, inspired by his wife’s open heart surgery, he did a series called “The Heart”, which the surgeon asked him to do in the operating room to capture the dramatic immediacy of the procedure, as well as the realistic details of the procedure. In preparation for the series, Dodd did extensive reading and interviewed physicians, spending eight years on the project, and producing sixty paintings done in an abstract realist style, using circular shapes and religious symbolism.

The last ten years of his life saw a return to the local scenes of his youth, but with a changed style. Gone were the somber colors and realistic look in oil; instead he worked in watercolor in short, bright crisp strokes of color.The coastal shores around Monhegan Island were once again a favored subject, as well as familiar landscapes in Europe and the United States, but a year before he died he showed he was still in touch with the times by painting a picture of O.J. Simpson’s bloody glove in a highly abstract style.

Collection Background
In 1973, Lamar Dodd, then head of the UGA Art Department and his old friend Walter Martin, began a discussion which resulted in seven outstanding works being donated to then Valdosta State College. As an art professor, Dodd believed that “books and slides are important but when it comes to art there is nothing to replace the original. I think students should be exposed to the best. Working with his daughter, Irene Dodd, of the VSU Art Department, he donated the core of this collection to VSC.

Many people contributed to this exhibit. We thank the Valdosta State University Art Funding Pool committee for funding some framing and security hanging for the collection. The Odum Library Art Committee, Deborah Davis, Chair, Maureen Puffer-Rothenberg, Denise Montgomery, Julie Bowland, Stacey Wright, and Elizabeth Barwick designed the exhibit and researched and cleaned all the works. The VSU Carpenters hung all the pieces. VSU Archives and Special Collections Student workers assisted with cleaning paintings and sign layout. We hope you enjoy these works.

Sample Pieces

“Still Life With Magnolias”
Oil painting, 29 ½ ” x 41”, 1939
Lamar Dodd
United States, 1909-1996
Donated by Irene Dodd

“Circus Horses”
Oil Painting, 56” x 48”
Carl Holty
United States, 1900-1973
Donated by Lamar Dodd

“Mother and Child”
Color lithograph, 19 ½ ” x 13”
Jean Charlot
b. France, Dual citizen of France and United States from 1940; 1898-1979
Donated by Lamar Dodd


Sally Esteser says:

I am looking for a specific work of Dodd’s I saw about 10 years ago. What I remember is that there was a lot of orange and it almost seemed like it was of an Italian looking city scape. Is there a catalog of his work or do you know of the piece I am referring? Thank you so much for your help.

Sally Estes says:

I am looking for a print of Italian Sunlight from Mr. Dodd’s Europe and the Near East collection. 176? I would appreciate very much a response regarding cost and possibility of availability. Thank you, Sally Estes

I have a oil painting of Lamar Dodd signed. I would like to find out if there is someone you would suggest as an appropriate appraisor for this piece. My father in law gave it to me years ago.. It is still rolled in the tube. Never been framed.

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