In Remembrance of Wilbur Niewald, 1925-2022

Wilbur Niewald paintings

Wilbur Niewald could usually be spotted hard at work in Loose Park in Kansas City, Missouri.

His office was the outdoors. Beginning in the 1970s, he painted what he saw while outside in the rain, snow, sunshine or clouds.

While many might remember him as a faculty member of the Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI), his connection began when he was just 10 years old. In 1935, he won a drawing contest at his elementary school, with the prize of free Saturday classes for a year.

He would go on to earn bachelor's and master's degrees from KCAI. In addition, he taught painting for 43 years and chaired the painting department from 1958 to 1985, retiring in 1992.

His work is on display locally and nationally, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Retired Founding Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art Bruce Hartman recalled the exhibition “Wilbur Niewald - In the Landscape,” the first show organized in collaboration with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

“While the Nelson show focused upon Wilbur's earlier oil paintings, the Nerman exhibit highlighted his most recent watercolors, all created in the year prior to his show,” said Hartman. “Collectively, the two exhibitions provided viewers considerable insight to Niewald's long and illustrious career as a painter.”

His career earned him many honors, including induction into the National Academy of Design and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship in 2006.

Wherever he went, Wilbur always kept his home of Kansas City in mind.

“Over the years, we were most fortunate to acquire seven works by Wilbur Niewald for the Nerman Museum collection,” said Hartman. “With his 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship, Wilbur spent 3 months painting in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Upon his return to Kansas City, he allowed the Nerman first pick of the works he produced there. The painting we selected can be viewed in the Regnier Center, adjacent to the Nerman Museum.”