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Delaware Foundation for Visual Arts recognizes UD's Charles Rowe

Charles Rowe, who taught at UD for 33 years, says his artistic goal is always to create something that can be understood throughout the world.

Charles Rowe, University of Delaware professor emeritus of art, was the honored artist at the Delaware Foundation for the Visual Arts’ 17th annual spring show, held April 8-10 at the Hagley Museum Soda House in Wilmington.

The event, which featured an opportunity to purchase selected works of Rowe and over 50 Brandywine Valley artists, provides scholarships for high school art students in the First State.

A veteran of numerous one-artist shows, Rowe’s works are featured in collections nationally and in Canada and Europe, including Archives, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England; Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Banco de Granada, Granada, Spain; NASA Space Museum, Cape Canaveral, Florida; and the Kevin Costner Collection, Hollywood, California. 

Rowe said that his interest in art began at an early age, and was encouraged by a fourth grade teacher in his native Great Falls, Montana, school. 

“I went to school in Montana until I went into the Army, serving in Korea,” Rowe said. “After military service I went to Southern Methodist University for a year, and then received a scholarship to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where I studied with artist Leroy Neiman.” 

Rowe also received a master of fine arts degree from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. 

Working as a package designer in Greenville, South Carolina, while also tying to paint on his own, Rowe was encouraged by his wife Eugenia to give teaching at the college level a try.

“When I came to UD in 1964, I taught advertising graphic design and illustration, and my students won 55 national awards,” Rowe said. “The course was later changed to visual communications.” 

During his 33-year tenure at UD, Rowe said he encouraged his students not to give up on a project or assignment just because a problem seemed insurmountable at the time. 

“I would tell them to never say ‘can’t,’” Rowe said. “I would let them know that while they might have a certain problem for which they did not know the answer, they would eventually solve it if they worked at it. If you say you can’t, it means that you have given up.” 

Rowe remembered one student who had dropped her final drawing for the course on Newark’s Main Street, where it subsequently was run over by a tractor-trailer rig.

“I told her and the class that the original work was good, but the marks made by the tire treads make the painting even more unique and gave it an extra quality,” Rowe said. “I also enjoyed seeing students from small high schools do as well as those from schools with powerful art programs.” 

Favorite artists for Rowe include Rembrandt, Salvador Dali, George Seurat, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh and Andrew Wyeth.

“Andy Wyeth was a great composer of white spaces in his painting,” Rowe said. “All of these people were also great thinkers and inventors.”

Through his current work embodies the dreamlike mystical qualities of surrealism, Rowe’s paintings also evidence a love of nature that reflects growing up in Montana in a family of outdoorsmen who fly fished nearby streams and rivers. 

“Surrealism has been around since the 1450s. It used to be called fantasy painting,” Rowe said. “To me, surrealism is a bridge between realism and complete abstraction.” 

About Black and White

Rowe’s Black and White 1981 duck stamp award-winning painting is the only original Delaware duck stamp winning work still in private hands. 

Flying close up over a snow-draped Delaware beach under a wintery full moon and displaying their white plumage with charcoal grey wingtips, the pair of snow geese immediately catch the eye and capture the imagination of the viewer.

“To get an idea of what I wanted to do, I visited the New York Museum of Natural History and the Delaware Museum of Natural History,” Rowe said. “I also visited the Egyptian collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, because the Egyptians often used animals as religious symbols.” 

Whether his work evokes images of the real or surreal, or the world in between, Rowe has pursued a singular artistic vision and goal. 

“People ask me what I try to do,” Rowe said. “My goal is to create something that will be understood in all countries around the world, forever.” 

About the Delaware Foundation for Visual Arts

The Delaware Foundation for Visual Arts is a non-profit, membership organization dedicated to the preservation of the art, with a mission to develop a wide ranging network of support and encouragement for the aspiring visual artist and to foster understanding and appreciation of art and its importance in society. 

The organization conducts regular workshops and provides critiques for members and holds the annual outdoor Greenville Summer Art Show, usually held in May or June.

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Charles Rowe, professor emeritus of art, was the honored artist at this year's Delaware Foundation for the Visual Arts spring show.

Charles Rowe, professor emeritus of art, whose work embodies the dreamlike mystical qualities of surrealism, was the honored artist at the Delaware Foundation for the Visual Arts annual spring show.

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