Charles Campbell has been hailed as one of the more distinctive and imaginative contemporary American Painters of our time. In a highly individual style he combined rich vibrant colors with elaborate textures and composition. His paintings, described as modern by conservatives, and considered conservative by Avant-Garde groups, have their own unique balance of design.
Charles was a quiet man who tended to make strong social statements in his paintings, some subtle, some obviously satirical, others full of fantasy and humor. A perfectionist, (he has destroyed over two-thirds of his work during his career), he painted every day until his eyes gave out and then often did some sculpting. His aim, he said, was to "Express my vision of the world in the purest possible terms."
As a young man he drew inspiration from Daumier, particularly his outstanding draftsmanship. He also learned a great deal from Renoir in his handling of paint and tonal variations. El Greco's contribution is seen in the intensity and luminosity of many of Campbell's paintings, just as Picasso's line and description of the human form can be seen in others.
Charles Campbell was born in Dayton, Ohio, but spent most of his boyhood in Springfield, Ohio. At 17 his family moved to Cleveland where he enrolled in the Cleveland School of Art (now the Cleveland Institute of Art), and spent five years there, receiving a B.A. degree in 1928. He taught one year at this school, but decided against the profession because he felt he had no calling for it. He was caught up in the 1930s Depression like thousands of his fellow artists and worked in WPA producing several murals. Following that he got a stake together and bummed about the country in a jalopy for a year, looking at the land and the people in the land during those very rough years in our history. He spent six months in an ancient house in Texas, painting, writing, doing a great deal of reading and thinking about what was going on, both in his own head and in the world.
He returned to Cleveland and was taken on by the Treasury Art Project, producing easel paintings until 1942. At that time Campbell married and left for Los Angeles. Up until his departure from Cleveland, Campbell had established himself locally as an outstanding young painter, winning many prizes and awards. His early work was exhibited in the traveling shows in most of the major museums of the country. The Cleveland Museum and Whitney Museum own examples of his work of that period. After his move to Los Angeles, Campbell dropped out of the museum circuit and thereafter exhibited only in private galleries surviving wholly on the sale of his work.
In 1952 the Campbells moved to the French Quarter in New Orleans and opened their own gallery. From there they moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Because of his reclusive nature and avoidance of public contacts, he himself attributed his survival in those times of hype and promotion to a "minor miracle" or a Guardian Angel who looked out for such as he. Be that as it may, he remained productive and creative, surviving off the sale of his work to a small group of selective collectors who considered his work unique and significant.
He died 1985 in Phoenix.
Whitney Museum of American Art
William Miliken, Director of the Cleveland Museum
Ray & Mona Buse, Buse Printing & Advertising, Phoenix, Arizona
Frank Tierney, Los Angeles,
Harvey Grady, Gould Investments Kansas City, Kansas
Paintings & murals for
Federal Buildings, Cleveland, Ohio
Post office murals, Kennedy, Texas
Mural panels for Housing Project, Cleveland, Ohio
Post office mural, Angola, Indiana