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Heartland Landscape Painter Harold Gregor Passes Away

Noted Midwestern landscape artist Harold Gregor of Bloomington has died. He was 89.

Born and raised in Detroit, Gregor worked as a clay modeler for Chrysler Motors but became known for his landscapes as he searched for something to replace abstract expressionism after a doctoral program at Ohio State University.

Harold Gregor works
Credit Peoria Riverfront Museum
Peoria Riverfront Museum
Harold Gregor of Bloomington exhibited in Santa Fe, New York, Chicago, and Milwaukee for decades. The Gregor Gallery and studios are in downtown Bloomington.

"And so I went back and did these kind of Winslow Homer things of sitting by the ocean in California with an easel and doing all of that. And that's what began to make me think about landscape as a major subject. And the more I knew about it, the more I became engaged," said Gregor during a 2017 interview with McLean County Arts Center Director Doug Johnson.

Gregor went on to a lengthy teaching career at several schools including Illinois State University, where he became a Distinguished Professor. He retired in 1995.

Gregor art hangs in U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin's office in Washington, and another was on the wall in the White House during the Obama presidency.

One curator called him the Dean of the Heartland School of Landscape Painters.

Gregor recalled one formative experience at Ohio State in a so-called flash lab.

"And they flashed a big image in front of you and you had to draw that in the darkness with chalk on big paper. And it was amazing after a while how much you could retain and how much you could get down and how much you could really feel the space. And to this day that's how I can feel it in my arms and elbows when I get it right," said Gregor in 2017.

Gregor worked in a variety of media including oil and watercolor. He was also a recipient of a lifetime achievement medal from the National Watercolor Society. His style also shifted from time to time, starting with photographic realism in the 1970s and moving to so called "flatscapes," and to some highly colored thick lined works he called vibrascapes starting in about 2005.

"I fell off a mountainside in Italy in 2004 and broke my wrist quite badly. Kind of back to basics, I did not have a right hand to paint with for about six months and painted with my left hand. I was really clumsy and poking and trying to make swirls and it wouldn't swirl. It really pushed me back to looking at things in a fundamental way which allows for big shapes. It got it back to pure patterning. So I began to push for these really vibrant landscapes that are all made up. I call them headscapes," said Gregor in a 2008 interview with GLT Arts Reporter Laura Kennedy.

Former Illinois State University Galleries Director Barry Blinderman said there are some stylistic constants in Gregor’s work, the persistence of pattern that has to do with stripes in the sky or in crop rows.

“Most people see this landscape around here as something that has to be trudged through in order to get where you are going. And Harold offers something that is an event or a destination to itself," said Blinderman, then curator of the Illinois State University Galleries, in a 2009 GLT interview.

Gregor exhibited in Santa Fe, New York, Chicago, and Milwaukee for decades. The Gregor Gallery and studios are in downtown Bloomington. Gregor and his wife Marlene have been active for decades in efforts to revitalize downtown Bloomington.

Full segment from GLT.

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