Vance Kirkland began his Nebula abstractions in 1954. At the time, Kirkland’s paintings were closely aligned with the visual language of Abstract Expressionism and his images of cosmic phenomena were derived more from his imagination than from photographic sources.


Kirkland’s wonder and respect for humanity’s capacity and necessity for exploration found form in his paintings, but he recognized their affinity with scientific inspiration.


Born in Convoy, Ohio in 1904, Vance Kirkland attended the Cleveland School of Art where he earned a diploma in painting and a B.E.A. (Bachelor of Education in Art) degree. In 1929, he moved to Denver to become the founding director of the University of Denver School of Art. He left the university in June of 1932, when they decided not to give art courses full academic recognition toward a degree, and founded his own Kirkland School of Art. In 1946, Kirkland returned as Director of the School of Art at the University of Denver. In 1957, he was honored with the award of ‘University Lecturer’. When he retired from the University of Denver in 1969, he was named Professor of Art Emeritus.


Kirkland’s painting career divided into five major periods, beginning in the 1920s with realist watercolor paintings and evolving into his greatest works – abstractions created with his signature oil & water technique, and the dot paintings. He died in Denver in 1981.


 In 1972, Kirkland was honored by the Denver Art Museum as receiving the first solo exhibition in the new building, designed by Gio Ponti and James Sudler.






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