Portrait of the Unknown Artist: New at Indiana State Museum

You’ve never heard of the Hoosier painter James Spencer Russell. In fact, it’s a safe bet that even folks in his hometown of Monticello would shrug at the mention of his name. But the Indiana State Museum aims to make a virtue of that vice with Style, Elegance, and Wit: Rediscovering the Life and Art of James Spencer Russell, opening April 4.

Russell enjoyed an impressive career in New York in the ’60s, when his work—which ranged from Pop to Abstract Expressionism—was shown at the Smithsonian and featured in the movie Midnight Cowboy. When Russell decided to move back to small-town Indiana in the ’70s, he was all but forgotten, despite the fact that he continued to produce work. “In this exhibition,” says Mark Ruschman, chief curator of fine arts, “we have the rare opportunity to tell the unknown story of arguably one of Indiana’s greatest artists.” 


This article appeared in the April 2014 issue.