(Bentleyville, Pennsylvania 1910-1976 Bali, Indonesia)
—Knoxville History Project —
Born in Pittsburgh, Pa., Kermit "Buck" Ewing graduated from Carnegie Mellon University where he later taught art. Ewing started the University of Tennessee's visual arts program after moving to Knoxville in 1948. The department began with 35 students based out of a three-bedroom house on W. Cumberland Avenue.
"Buck" Ewing was renowned for his figurative and landscape paintings that explored abstract expressionism and pop art. His painting here, "Sports Final", depicts a newspaper seller on Kingston Pike in Knoxville in 1949. In addition to solo art shows, Ewing collaborated with others to form two- and three-artist shows, but it was the addition of Philip Nichols to UT's art faculty in the late 1950s that sparked the creation of the "Knoxville Seven" - a loose coalition of regional artists also including Carl Sublett, Robert Birdwell, Joanne Higgs Ross, Richard Clarke, and Walter "Holly" Stevens.
Heralded as a seminal event during the 1963 Dogwood Arts Festival at UT's McClung Museum, the Seven Knoxville Artists of America exhibition saw Ewing and Stevens famously sporting bowler hats and white tuxedos with "Knoxville 7" stenciled on their backs.
in 1963, Ewing also formed the Knoxville Watercolor Society to promote the medium as a "significant art form" and continued to expand UT's visual arts program. He remained
head of department until he died of a heart attack while visiting Bali, Indonesia, in 1976. Five years after his death, UT finally realized the Art and Architecture Building, which Ewing had envisioned and advocated for many years.
The Ewing Gallery of Art and Architecture, located in that building, is named in his honor. More than fifty years after the original event, the Knoxville Museum of Art held a major exhibition on the Knoxville Seven in 2016.
This painting is featured in the Knoxville Museum of Art's permanent exhibition,Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee
Downtown Art Wraps are coordinated by the Knoxville History Project, an educational nonprofit with a mission to research and promote the history and culture of Knoxville. KHP's educational articles and publications feature colorful characters, bizarre tales, interesting buildings, curious traditions, as well as seriously influential local events. Learn more at knoxvillehistoryproject.org