About Robert Donley
Robert Donley's paintings appear in museums, galleries, and collections in the United States, Europe, and Asia. He has won numerous awards, including an NEA grant, the Mr. and Mrs. Frank G. Logan Prize, and the Pauline Palmer Prize. His work has also been reproduced in numerous publications, including national publications such as Sports Illustrated and ArtForum. In 1990, he was asked by U.S. News & World Report to serve as a judge for a special issue of the magazine entitled "The Best of America," which honored individuals who had contributed significantly to the fields of education, science and technology, business, politics and government, and the arts.
In the 1960s, Donley's work was affected by Abstract Expressionism and his Color-Field paintings from this time show an attention to surface and tone. But in the late 1960s, his paintings took on a surrealist edge and in the 1970s he combined this with an interest in historical, mythological, and literary themes, producing works painted in a naive style and peopled by tiny, caricatured figures. In 1980, Donley opened his first one-person show in New York City with a series of paintings dealing with the history of his own age. These paintings, like those from the 70s, are saturated with figures, and although the subject matter is gruesome--the great wars of the twentieth century--in the tradition of the Fauves, he treats his subject whimsically. His landscapes and figures are arbitrarily colored: a moon is blue, animals anything from purple to yellow to black.
In the 1990s and continuing to the present day, Donley has predominantly been concerned with the total experience of the modern city, whether Chicago or a composite of several large cities. His cities are active and dense, filled with scores of miniature urbanites crammed into a grid of skyscrapers, monuments, apartments, and traffic.
In the essay "Robert Donley: Urban Problems and Social Iconography," Dr. Paul B. Jaskot writes that Donley's art "investigates the changing political and social geographies of [the modern] city." In Donley's art today, we see the structural changes of modern industrial urban life in the United States.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Donley has lived in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Mexico City, and Chicago. In Chicago, he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he received a B.F.A. and an M.F.A. and was a professor of art (now professor emeritus) at DePaul University. In 2010, he migrated back to the West Coast to Portland, Oregon, where his art has continued to evolve.
For detailed information about past and present shows and collections, click on the CV link.
Parts of this biography have been taken from Art in Chicago: 1945-1990, a publication of The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.