ROCKPORT — A lifetime of work by an influential local artist will be celebrated when a show featuring some rarely seen work on loan opens this weekend at the Rockport Art Association.
The Oliver Balf Retrospective celebrates this artist and teacher, who died unexpectedly at the age of 83 on a family trip to Israel just days before a solo show was to open in 2010. To give a flavor of his work, that show was titled “An Appetite for Color.” This retrospective spans work done over the span of 60 years.
There is a free public opening reception Saturday, May 11, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Rockport Art Association, 12 Main St.
An award-winning artist, Balf was nominated to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and honored by the Rockport Art Association in 2009 as an Emeritus Member. He was a founding faculty member of the Montserrat College of Art, which granted him an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts.
The retrospective is the largest show of his work ever assembled, featuring more than 40 works including several of his early and rarely exhibited watercolors on loan from private collections.
This show is curated by Nancy Balf, his wife of 58 years, along with input from family and artist friends. The works are arranged chronologically, tracing his artistic journey, beginning with his student work from 1948 to 1950 and continuing through 2010 when he died.
“This show will have great diversity, which will be self evident upon viewing the works,” said Nancy Balf. “He was very diverse and would try anything.”
The paintings feature everything from the Pigeon Cove quarries to fishing vessels in Gloucester Harbor to jazz musicians — all depicted in a blast of color and powerful brush work.
Born in Rye, N.Y., in 1927 to Russian immigrant parents, he was a product of the blossoming Jazz Age, which inspired the young man on both a musical and artistic level. When he was a Rye High School coronet player, he helped arrange a Duke Ellington Orchestra visit to the school.