Evan Wilson was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 1953. He showed interest in art at an early age when University of Alabama art professor and family friend Richard Brough provided him with painting materials and inspiration. In 1971, Wilson enrolled in the prestigious North Carolina School of the Arts to complete high school. There he experimented with various styles of art. After high school, Wilson attended the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore where he met his lifelong mentor, Joseph Sheppard, an internationally known realist painter. Under Sheppard's training, Wilson began his evolution as a realist painter.
After college, Wilson studied at the Schuler School of Fine Arts in Baltimore. In 1978, he was awarded the Greenshields Foundation grant to study painting in Florence, Italy. Over the following twenty-five years, Wilson has honed his technique, which uses broad brushstrokes to create paintings that are immediate and of the moment. A master of painting light and its effects on objects, he often incorporates swatches of sunlight in his interiors. He takes ordinary objects and scenes in life – such as hanging clothes on a line – and makes them elegant. As he stated in the Huntsville Museum of Art catalog to his show, “the fun comes when playing with traditional concepts to create something entirely new.” For example, Wilson places casual sunflowers in silver and porcelain vases for a fresh interpretation.
Wilson extended the realism tradition into a new realm when he painted a series of canvases depicting baptisms in the Gees Bend area of Alabama. The works have a “timeless, spiritual quality” that viewers have responded to with emotion. Down to the Water, Alabama Baptism is Wilson's quintessential depiction of a rural baptism in a creek. After researching for eight years, Wilson decided to portray a processionary rhythm with sunlight flowing down the embankment. In 2001, Down to the Water was featured in a solo exhibition at the Huntsville Museum of Art and later was purchased for the museum's permanent collection.
Wilson's paintings are included in many other public and private collections, including the Greenville County Museum of Art in South Carolina and the Royal Academy of Music in London, England. Nearly thirty of Wilson's paintings are included in the collection of the Warner Westervelt Museum of Art, considered to be one of the finest collections of American art in the world.
Wilson has received many awards. Most recently, he was honored with the William Bouguereau Award for Emotion, Theme and the Figure in the 2006 Art Renewal Center's Annual International Salon. In 1999, Wilson received the Alabama Arts Award presented by the University of Alabama's Society for the Fine Arts in recognition of his artistic talent and ability to capture his Alabama heritage on canvas.
Wilson remains true to his mission to bring realist painting back into the forefront of American art. Most recently, he helped organize an exhibition entitled “Legacy: A Tradition Lives On,” which is on a three-year tour of museums nationwide. There, he is grouped with eleven other artists who also studied under Joseph Sheppard. Please visit traditionliveson.com for more information on this important exhibit.
Wilson's strong traditional training to “paint what he sees” has allowed him to paint a wide array of subjects, from white peonies in silver pitchers to rural baptisms in creeks to the official portrait of Alabama First Lady Lori Siegelman. Always searching for new subjects and new ways to depict them, Wilson divides his time among interiors, florals, figures, landscapes, and portraits.
Wilson’s early-nineteenth-century home is often the subject matter of his paintings. He also makes regular visits to Alabama for inspiration. The diverse subjects he has painted in his home state include the Sipsey Swamp, the Cahaba Lilies, and big-leaf magnolias prevalent in Alabama.