“Mike is a natural painter, he was born that way,” said painter Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) about his studio assistant Michael Fitzhugh Wright, according to Wright.
Now living in Santa Fe, 86-year old Wright continues to paint and allow his work to evolve. A group of his paintings created in town from 1998 through 2014 are on display in the show “Jazz Numbers” at Ellsworth Gallery.
“I met Michael about a year and a half ago,” explains gallery owner Barry Ellsworth. “He’s currently doing landscapes, but I saw his abstract pieces from his jazz series and asked him if I could show them. They haven’t been on exhibit before, so they’re new to market.”
Born in New York in 1931, Wright studied art at several New York and East Coast schools, including the Yale Music and Art School. After serving in Korea as a regimental artist, he began his painting career in New York City in 1954.
While in New York, he befriended artists Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline and David Smith and showed his work in several Manhattan galleries. In 1965 he moved to East Hampton and became de Kooning’s studio assistant for two years.
Wright spent the 1970s in New England; initially in Cambridge, Massachusetts and then in New Hampshire so he could be closer to nature. His first visit to the Southwest was in 1974. He made annual trips to the area until he finally moved his studio to Santa Fe in 1986.
An accomplished draftsman who has always loved drawing the figure, Wright enjoys working in oil, acrylic and watercolor. Works in the show are primarily on canvas or board, with a few as large as 96” x 94” and several as small as 28” x 10.”
Wright plans to be at the gallery’s 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. reception on May 25.