Felrath Hines

American, 1918 - 1993
Primarily an artist, Felrath Hines sought to distill universal visual idioms from the tapestry of his intricate personal experiences. Despite being perceived as "color blind" in his interpersonal relationships, Hines's life in 20th-century American society mirrored the vibrancy of his increasingly nuanced artworks.
Hines navigated the New York art scene of the early 1960s, a period when opportunities for African American artists were limited, confronting routine marginalization by prestigious galleries and museums. At the invitation of fellow artist Romare Bearden, Hines became a founding member of Spiral, a group of African American visual artists responding to the civil rights movement.
Moving away from his figurative and cubist-style beginnings, Hines delved into soft-edged organic abstracts, exploring the interplay of hues within his chosen oil medium. Dismissing the notion of exclusively "black art," he continued to pursue his abstract sensibility.
Socially engaged, Hines frequented jazz clubs and art openings, leading him to the vibrant gatherings at Frank Neal's 28th Street apartment. Here, luminaries like James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Charles Sebree, and Billy Strayhorn convened, discussing creative, social issues, careers, and navigating the white-dominated world.
Beyond his role as an artist, Hines gained recognition for his meticulous conservation work and precise in-painting. In 1964, he established his private conservation practice, serving clients such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the esteemed Georgia O’Keeffe, who became a loyal friend.
In 1972, Hines left New York City for Washington, DC, taking on the role of Chief Conservator at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery and later at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Retiring in 1984, Hines experienced a prolific period, producing more paintings in this timeframe than throughout the rest of his career. His legacy extends beyond the canvas, reflecting a life intricately woven with art, conservation, and a commitment to transcending racial boundaries in the art world.
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