Eugene Healy

Eugene Healy

(1948 - Present)

This master of the painted collage obsessively changes his compositions, as revealed by layers of canvas fragments and a variety of materials. The resulting lyrical expressionist shorescapes are musical in their evocation of particular moods and weather.  

Eugene Healy: Painting-Collages of Lyrical Expressionism

Coastal Weather Series, No.15, 2020, mixed media collage, 29.5 x 9.5 inches

Eugene Healy is always happy to discuss his painting-collages, but before doing so there are two artists who he likes to quote. One is Edward Hopper, who said, “If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.” The other is Francis Bacon, who said, “The job of the artist is to deepen the mystery.”

Whereas many artists have included collage in their repertoire, Healy has focused on the painted collage for his entire career. His consistent source of inspiration has been the shoreline; specifically the ever-changing atmosphere of Long Island Sound as well as the island’s side facing the Atlantic Ocean. On his favorite shores (from the Hamptons to Stonington, Connecticut to Watch Hill, Rhode Island and Nantucket) the ever-changing weather evokes particular moods in his abstract painted collages. His works are a synthesis of painting, architecture, and music: “My painting-collages are as much built as they are painted. Like a careful writer, I eliminate unnecessary words when I paint and strip the object down to its fundamental truths. This gives an image energy and integrity. It is these fundamental truths that have a way of imbuing a creative act with beauty and power. That is why great art, like love for another person, is honest and true. You may not be able to explain this truth in words, but you know it when you see it and feel it. One of the reasons the art of the Renaissance was magnificent was that many artists painted primarily out of religious faith and beliefs. They believed in what they were doing and expressed the truth as they saw it. The end-results were creations of timeless beauty and power.”

Reactions to Healy’s painting-collages are visceral, inviting long contemplation, reminding us of what the British art critic Clive Bell described as “significant form” way back in 1913. Examining Healy’s signature style reveals why. Many of his works are composed of two basic sections. The lower field grounds us in the earth with a foundation of carefully structured fragments of oils on canvas and printed fabrics, pieces of watercolors on paper, and even beach sand and pieces of window screens.  The compositions of two masters of the lyrical expressionist landscape — Nicholas De Stael [1914–1955] and Richard Diebenkorn [1904–1989] — come to mind. Within this groundwork, Healy’s balanced notes of color set the stage for the burst of energy emerging in the upper section — the sky. Here the patches of color from the earth give way to broader areas that invoke a range of atmospheric conditions experienced along the shoreline, from sunny beach days to evening light, from foggy mornings to imminent rain. For example, his Coastal Weather series is as convincing as Martin Johnson Heade’s famous mid 19th century series of Approaching Thunderstorm paintings. Comparisons can also be drawn to the bravura brushstrokes and staining of the Chinese expressionist master Zao Wou Ki [1921–2013] used in his paintings to conjure atmospheric effects.

Healy approaches each work like a musical composer, almost obsessively making changes, over and over, arranging different collage elements until he is certain his expressions sing. He evokes the spirits of a particular place and time that had simply lain dormant in our memories. Ultimately, he proves himself a master who infuses his painting-collages with shapes and colors that poetically yield the vocabulary of the implied landscape yet remain essentially non-objective. “Architecture applies to my work in the physical way I make my collage paintings,” he says.  “My compositions are as much built as they are painted. I move forms around in a way that makes them stand solidly on the picture plane. My collages are heavily layered with ground materials like sand, canvas, and fabrics that reveal texture and add an element of tactile interest to the composition. The musical analogy and tonality is added through both oil and acrylic pigments, often worked up from cool and warm grays made from the mixture of complimentary colors. Finally, evoking a sense of place in my work is an important communicative element.”

Healy began exhibiting his works in 1967 before earning his MFA from the New York Institute of Technology in 1972. While exhibiting at museums and galleries throughout the country, he has also served as the curator for American Vision, a three-year traveling exhibition launched in 1979 at New York University. Later, he served as Director of the National Artists’ Alliance, and was Exhibition Designer for the Yale Center for British Art. His painted collages are in numerous private, corporate, and museum collections, including the collection of Jack Welch, the legendary former chairman of GE Capital.


Collage: Shorescapes

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Select Solo Exhibitions

1972          New York Institute of Technology (Library Mural)

1974          Fairfield Public Library Gallery, Fairfield, Conn.

1974          John Slade Ely House, New Haven, Conn.

1980          Parsons School of Design, New York

1980          New School for Social Research, New York

1998          Yale University, School of Medicine

2000          Peter Hastings Falk Gallery, Madison, Conn. (solo exhibition)

2000          University of Connecticut (solo exhibition)

2000          Hastings Art Management Services, Inc, Madison, Conn.

2001          Opus 71 Galleries, Key West, Florida (solo exhibition)

2001-on    Art Cabinet, Nantucket, Mass.

2004          Kiesendahl+Calhoun Fine Art, Ltd.,  Beacon, New York

2006          Nevin Kelly Gallery, Washington DC (solo exhibition)

2008          Cate Charles Gallery, Stonington, Conn.

2010-on    Summer House Gallery, Madison, Conn.


Select Group Exhibitions

1967          University of Tennessee

1968          Northeast Louisiana State College

1968          Louisiana State University

1972          C.W. Post College, New York

1974          John Slade Ely House, New Haven, Conn.

1976          John Slade Ely House, New Haven, Conn (Munson Gallery Award)

1976          Munson Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

1978          Educational Center for the Arts, New Haven, Conn.

1979          American Vision Exhibition, NYU

1980          American Vision Exhibition, NYU

1981          American Vision Exhibition, NYU

1981          New York University (“Small Works” exhibition)

1988          Dumont Landis Gallery, New Brunswick, New Jersey

1992          Chapel Street Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

2000          The Painting Center, New York

2003          Nevin Kelly Gallery, Washington, DC

2010          Cate Charles Gallery, Stonington, Conn.

2011          Gallery 125, Bellport, New York

2011          Madelyn Jordan Fine Art, Scarsdale, New York



Curatorial Projects

Exhibition Designer, Yale University, Yale Center for British Art

1979-81     Creator and Curator of American Vision traveling exhibition: New York University; Montclair State College, NJ; Parsons School of Design, New York; New School for Social Research, New York