Anniston Museum of Natural History

Anniston, AL



The Art of Ben Shute


The Anniston Museum of Natural History will host an exhibition of the paintings and sculpture of Ben Shute, cofounder of The Atlanta College of Art and a pillar of the Atlanta art world. The exhibition will be on display in the Changing Exhibit Gallery through October 31, 1999.

Featured in the Exhibition are Shute's energetic and vibrant watercolors, sensitively-rendered pencil, charcoal, and ink drawings, and several of his bronze sculptures. The subjects he portrays reveal his zest for life and careful observation of his world: light-filled seascapes from the Northeastern coast; the ambiance of the Mediterranean captured in its architecture; and the beauty and complexity of the human body.

Shute once remarked, "Watercolor is an artist's medium. It is capable of brief, spontaneous, expression in the hand of a painter with convictions. The comments can be electric and telegrammatic, saying a great deal in the fewest brush strokes. It is fluid, light, airy, and the impact and message must be resolved in this fluid state. There is no backing up once committed and there are no tolerable watercolors-they are either good or bad." Shute was part of a generation of artists that brought watercolor from obscurity to its full potential.

Shute defined truth as the most important aspect of art. It was not the artist's job, he maintained, to make things pretty. He looked to nature for his understanding of truth; and he was pragmatic and down to earth. His vision was one of harmony and balance-a unique viewpoint in his era-and he saw no dichotomy between science and nature. In his seascapes, cars sit on a beach as naturally as driftwood.

Shute worked selflessly to develop Atlanta's art community. He trained several generations of artists during his tenure at The Atlanta College of Art. He also co-founded the Southeastern Annual Exhibition to provide his young artists a place to show their work. During his tenure as Director of the High Museum, Shute emphasized the importance of acquiring substantial works of art. He remained a free thinker and a force in the art world of Atlanta for 58 years.His stepdaughter, Anniston resident Betty Plummer Potts, now maintains the collection. Over the past several years, Mrs. Potts has worked with curators to carefully appraise, photograph and catalogue the collection, preserving the work of one of the Southeast's most expressive artists. Many of Ben Shute's works on display at the Anniston Museum will be available for purchase.

Ben Shute's work is in the Atlanta collections of The High Museum, the State Capitol, Emery University, and Wachovia Bank. His work is also a part of the collections of Florida Southern College, the Columbia Museum in South Carolina, and is on loan to the U.S. Embassy Residence, The Hague, Netherlands.

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