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Manning Williams: Reinventing Narrative Painting

June 19, 2021 - September 12, 2021

Manning Williams (American, 1939–2012), Oyster Roast, 1985–1986. Oil on canvas, 71¼ x 142½. Collection of the Charleston County Aviation Authority. © Image Courtesy of the Williams Living Trust. 

Reinventing Narrative Painting, the first major exhibition devoted to revered South Carolina artist Manning Williams since his death in 2012, was organized by the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina, an institution with which he enjoyed a close relationship from 1967 until the end of his life. The exhibition and the publication that accompanies it represent virtually every aspect of his long, remarkably prolific career.

Williams (1939–2012), a native and lifelong resident of Charleston graduated from the College of Charleston before earning a master’s degree from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. While there, he developed a highly personal approach to realist painting that emphasized storytelling. It was fueled by a keen personal interest in portraying subjects that he found on the periphery of life, often concentrating on people and places he thought overlooked. His paintings are rooted in the history, traditions, and terrain of the South Carolina low country. 

Williams taught at the Gibbes School of Art and the College of Charleston. His work, exhibited nationally and internationally, has been the subject of solo shows at the Gibbes Museum of Art, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia, as well as the Greenville County Museum of Art and the Florence County Museum in South Carolina, and has been featured in numerous group exhibitions. He is represented in corporate and private collections, as well as the collections of the Greenville County Museum of Art, the South Carolina State Museum, the Gibbes Museum of Art, the Telfair Museums, and the Morris Museum of Art. 

The exhibition is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated book that documents his entire career. Published by Evening Post Books, it includes a foreword by Gibbes Museum executive director and chief curator Angela D. Mack; acknowledgments by the artist’s wife of many years, Barbara Williams; an insightful essay by art historian David Houston; and a richly informative biographical essay by Williams’s longtime friend, retired newspaperman Charles R. Rowe. It’s available for purchase in the Morris Museum Store. Manning Williams: Reinventing Narrative Painting was organized by the Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina.


June 19, 2021
September 12, 2021
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