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Kenneth Hayes Miller (American, 1876-1952), Leaving the Shop, 1929, etching on paper, 8 x 9 7/8 inches, Joel and Lila Harnett Print Study Center, University of Richmond Museums, Museum purchase, H2007.04.02 © Estate of Kenneth Hayes Miller
Oct 05, 2012
throughApr 07, 2013

Keeping Art Alive: Prints and Drawings by Kenneth Hayes Miller and His Students at the Art Students League

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The University of Richmond Museums presents Keeping Art Alive: Prints and Drawings by Kenneth Hayes Miller and His Students, on view from October 5, 2012, to April 7, 2013, in the Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art and the Print Study Center. Kenneth Hayes Miller (American, 1876-1952) was a painter and printmaker who taught at the New York School of Art from 1899 to 1911 and at the Art Students League of New York from 1911 until 1951. The exhibition examines how Hayes Miller’s teachings influenced his students and how each of those artists later developed their own personal styles. Featured in the exhibition alongside the works of their instructor are prints and drawings by Peggy Bacon (American, 1895-1987), George Bellows (American, 1882-1925), Isabel Bishop (American, 1902-1988), Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976), Minna Citron (American, 1896-1991), Rockwell Kent (American, 1882-1971), Yasuo Kuniyoshi (American, born Japan, 1893-1953), Reginald Marsh (American, born France, 1898-1954), Louise Nevelson (American, born Russia, 1899-1988), and George Tooker (American, 1920-2011).

Miller and his students from the Art Students League
Born in Oneida, New York, in 1876, Kenneth Hayes Miller briefly attended the Horace Mann School in New York City before he abandoned ambitions of going to college and instead decided to pursue a career in art. Between 1892 and 1898 Hayes Miller enrolled in painting and drawing classes at the Art Students League followed by studying at the New York School of Art, where he studied under such instructors as Kenyon Cox and William Merritt Chase. He then went on to teach at the New York School of Art for over a decade, before finally settling at the Art Students League where he taught painting and composition classes until a year before his death in 1952.

Founded in 1875, the Art Students League was intended to provide an environment where both men and women could prepare for a life-long profession in the fine arts. Instructors at the League were allowed complete creative authority over their courses with no interference by the administration, giving students the opportunity to choose from a wide range of expressions. When Hayes Miller began teaching there in 1911, he used this freedom to start what League President Stewart Klonis called “a revolution” among the students. In his classes he combined his admiration of the techniques of the Renaissance masters with his desire to document the reality of contemporary urban American life.

Hayes Miller often depicted women in the urban scene as they filled societal roles as homemakers and consumers. In his own words, “I touch contemporary life in themes relating to shopping, but what has absorbed me has always been simply the body.” Rather than use models for his figure compositions, he adhered to the conventions of Old Masters such as Rembrandt, Rubens, and Titian to develop a standard female type who embodied traditional ideals of motherhood, nurturing, and femininity. In the print Department Store (1930), Miller’s shopper is thoughtfully considering merchandise with a saleswoman. The ample matrons are drawn as tubular, weighty forms, mimicking the columns in the background, and symbolize stability, vitality, and perseverance despite worsening economic times.

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1902, Isabel Bishop moved to New York in 1918 where she attended the School of Applied Design for Women with plans to become a commercial artist. After studying under Hayes Miller at the Art Students League from 1920 to 1924, and again in 1926, Bishop decided to give up commercial illustration to focus on figure composition. She adopted her instructor’s method of drafting multiple sketches on a single subject in order “to catch the fleeting moment without freezing its flight.” The etching Lunch Break (1956) is a voyeuristic observation of an intimate moment between two young office workers who are sharing lunch in a non-descript setting. She was particularly fascinated with the motif of the women’s lunch hour, describing it as a moment to view the social mobility in their lives as they simultaneously search for husbands and earn a living.

Born in Paris in 1898, Reginald Marsh moved to the United States in 1900, where he later graduated from Yale University and moved to New York to study art and become an illustrator. In his classes with Hayes Miller at the Art Students League between 1920 and 1922, Marsh was told by his instructor, “You are a painter of the body. Sex is your theme.” Hayes Miller encouraged Marsh to combine his favored sexual themes with the vibrant and unique social landscape of New York. The print Minsky’s New Gotham Chorus (1936) depicts eight women dancing at a burlesque show for male viewers, likely inspired by Marsh’s time working as a freelance illustrator for the Daily News and the New Yorker. Unlike Hayes Miller’s matrons who possess nearly identical soft, feminine bodies and are modestly posed, Marsh’s provocative women have varying body types, physical flaws, and awkward yet sensual poses.

About the Exhibition

Other works featured in the exhibition include the etching Matinale (1931) by Peggy Bacon, a student of Hayes Miller at the Art Students League from 1915 to 1920, which depicts a view of the bustle of East Fifteenth Street from the artist’s apartment window in Manhattan. George Bellows, a student in Hayes Miller’s classes at the New York School of Art from 1904 to 1906, is represented by such prints as Morning (Nude on the Bed, Second Stone), (1921), which reveals how Bellows was inspired by Miller’s interest in classical nudes. The lithograph Resting (1929) by Rockwell Kent, a student of Miller at the New York School of Art from 1902 to 1904, demonstrates Kent’s interest in presenting the figure in a contemporary setting.

The exhibition was organized by the University of Richmond Museums and curated by Richard Waller, Executive Director, University Museums, with Haley Jones, ’14, leadership studies major, University of Richmond, and 2012 Harnett Summer Research Fellow, University Museums.

Past Programming
Friday, October 5, 2012, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
6:30 p.m., Curator’s Talk, Harnett Museum of Art, Modlin Center for the Arts
“The Amazing Legacy of Kenneth Hayes Miller: His Art and His Students” Richard Waller, Executive Director, University Museums, and curator of the exhibition
7:15 to 8:30 p.m., Preview of the exhibition Keeping Art Alive: Prints and Drawings by Kenneth Hayes Miller and His Students
Harnett Museum of Art and Print Study Center, University Museums

Sunday, November 4, 2012, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Family Arts Day Celebration!
University Museums and Modlin Center for the Arts
Free! arts-centered family fun day with tours of the exhibitions in the Harnett Museum of Art, hands-on art activities in the Booth Lobby and Modlin Courtyard, entertainment, refreshments, and special guests Grammy®-winning ensemble eighth blackbird
3 p.m., Performance, Camp Concert Hall
Saint-Saën’s Carnival of the Animals featuring the eighth blackbird ensemble (paid tickets required for performance, for information visit
Keeping Art Alive: Prints and Drawings by Kenneth Hayes Miller and His Students at the Art Students League