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William Muir

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William Muir (1902-1964) was a Modernist landscape watercolor painter and a noted sculptor. Bill was born in North Dakota and studied at the Minneapolis School of Art before moving to New York City to accept a fellowship to study at the Art Students League in the mid-1920s. It was there that he met his future wife, Emily, whom he wed in 1928. The young couple traveled the world as commercial artists before settling in Stonington, Maine. Bill enlisted in the Navy in 1938.

His career as a sculptor took off after the war and from 1951 until his death in 1964 he exhibited regularly at the Sculpture Center in New York. In one year alone (1953), his sculptures were included in shows at the Metropolitan, and the Whitney Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy, and the Detroit Institute, as well as Bowdoin, Colby and Dartmouth. Bill’s sculpture is also included in Maine and Its Role in American Art (Colby College, 1963).

Bill based his organic wood sculptures on biological and botanical forms. He carved in a variety of woods, including oak, mahogany, African blackwood, Brazilian rosewood, black walnut, maple burls, and domestic applewoods. Bill was so in tune with the nature, his organic forms seem to emerge from the wood. Bill was able to bring his abstract wood sculpture to life by using motion and the space around the sculpture.

Art historian Carole Calo, who has a special interest in post-World War II sculptors, said “Certain sculptures inspired by tree braces from which they are crafted defy gravity, emulating the openness and expressionism of welded metal ‘drawings in space’ of David Smith”

A 1964 article in Time Magazine stated, “nature, with all her wisdom, cannot seem to match by accident what Muir shapes by design…Muir’s subtly swiveling works exchange contours with the space that surrounds them, earning comparisons with the smooth biomorphic bulges that mark the sculpture of Arp, Moore, and Brancusi.” (Time, March 13, 1964)