Joseph McGurl


Joseph McGurl Biography

American, b. 1958

Designated a living master by the Art Renewal Center and widely regarded as a leader of the American landscape school, Joseph McGurl is one of the most important realist painters today.

McGurl works almost exclusively with oil paint, capturing marine and landscape scenes in his native New England as well as other areas of the Eastern US. Along with his childhood as a muralist’s son, McGurl’s days as a sailor and his studies under Robert Cormier both informed and inspired McGurl’s work on his subject matter.

McGurl’s style is a modern extension of the 19th Century Luminist school and is illuminated by a fascination for the interplay of light and coloured by a knowledge of physics. It is this focus that drives McGurl to work exclusively in the rare method of en plein air painting rather than relying on photography.


As a realist, I work in a sphere which must function on several different levels simultaneously. Although I have a deep personal connection to the landscape, it is also a vehicle to explore my interest in modern physics, spirituality, and the exploration of light, form, space, and color interpreted with paint. The slice of reality that man is capable of experiencing and the higher reality that permeates time and space is my true subject.

My artistic influences began during my youth. The luminist paintings I walked past on the way to art classes at the Boston M.F.A. formed part of my cultural identity. Because of the Transcendentalists’ influence on these painters, I became intrigued with the Transcendentalist belief that nature and light in particular were spirituality symbolic.

As a landscape painter who interprets light, I also developed an interest in the study of modern physics. Coincidentally, as well as signifying spirituality, the particle that gives us light, the photon, is a primary vehicle for physicists to better understand the workings of the universe. My interests in the physical and spiritual implications of light are some of the many reasons why I never work from photographic reference. To paint light, I must paint actual light which is composed of photons. A photograph does not contain photons; therefore, it is impossible to interpret actual light from a photograph. To gain a deeper understanding of my subject, I devote a significant portion of my painting time to plein air work. Although my studio paintings are often imaginary, they are informed by thousands of plein air studies which lend emotional and empirical truth to the scenes depicted. Because of my love for the forms of nature and in an attempt to arrive at a more universal and timeless portrayal of reality, a high fidelity to visual truths predominate over a more stylistic approach to my art making.

In addition to its descriptive qualities, I strive to make the paint visually interesting in its own right. Towards this end, I employ a variety of techniques to manipulate the support surface as well as the paint itself. These manipulations present the paint as an entity in itself while at the same time create the illusions found in representational oil painting.

Massachusetts College of Art, dual degree in Painting and Education, Boston, MA
Robert Cormier, Fenway Studios, Boston, MA: Sight Size Figure Drawing 1987-1989
Private Study in England and Italy, Abroad
Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Boston, MA

2020, Joseph McGurl: Contemporary American Realism – Journey Through Time and Space, New York, NY
2020, New York State of Mind, Digital Exhibition
2020, Contemporary Realism, New York, NY
2019, Contemporary Realism, Greenwich, CT
2019, Summer Group Show, Greenwich, CT
2019, Art New York, New York, NY
2018 – 2020, Coors Western Art Show (annually), CO
2018, Art Renewal Center International Salon, Museu Europeu d’Art Modern, Barcelona
2018, Plein Air Painters of America, Tweed Museum of Art, MN
2018, Realism: Then and Now, New York, NY
2017–2018, Group Show, New York, NY
2017–2018, Group Show, Greenwich, CT
2017, Annual Small Works Exhibition, Digital Exhibition
2017, Fall Group Exhibition, New York, NY
2017, Plein Air Painters of America, Steamboat Art Museum, CO
2017, MIXED: Group exhibition, New York, NY
2016, New Arrivals – Summer, Greenwich, CT
2016, Spring Group Show, Greenwich, CT
2016 Spring Group Show, New York, NY
2016, American Paintings: 150 Year of Exceptional Representational Works, Greenwich, CT
2015-2017, American Realism: Past and Present, Cavalier Galleries, New York, NY
2015, Art Renewal Center International Salon, Sotheby’s, Los Angeles
2015, A Day at the Beach, Cavalier Galleries, Nantucket, MA
2015, Cape Cod Museum of Art, Plein Air Painters of America, Dennis, MA
2015, Hamm Collection, New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT
2015, The Cahoon Museum of American Art, Retrospective, Cotuit, MA
2014 - 2020, Eiteljorg Museum – Quest for the West annually, Indianapolis, IN
2015, Saint Botolph Club of Boston, Retrospective, Boston, MA
2010 - 2014, Salmagundi Club: American Masters (annually), New York, NY
2008, American Society of Marine Artists – 30th Anniversary,
2004, The Cahoon Museum of American Art – A Sense of Place: Location Studies with Joseph McGurl, Cotuit, MA
2004, Realism Show, Boston, MA
2004, Hillside College – America Seen, Hillsdale, MI
2004, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum - Changing Prospects: The View from Mount Holyoke, South Hadley, MA
2002, The Arnot Art Museum - Representing Representation Exhibition, Elmira, NY
2002, Rockwell Museum of Western Art, Corning, NY
2001, Haggin Museum: Contemporary Artists, Paint Yosemite and the Eastern Sierra, Stockton, CA

Cape Cod Museum of Art, Cape Cod, MA
The Cahoon Museum of American Art, Barnstable, MA
Saint Botolph Club of Boston, Boston, MA
New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT
Westmoreland Museum of American Art, PA
Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota, MN
Art Renewal Center, NY
The Mellon Collection,
The Forbes Collection, New York, NY
Sec. of State John Kerry,
Richard Mellon Scaife

Guild of Boston Artists
Copley Master, the Copley Society of Boston
Signature Member of the Plein Air Painters of America
Art Renewal Center – Living Master
American Society of Marine Artists – Fellow

-Living Master, Art Renewal Center
-Elected Member, Plein Air Painters of America
-Elected Member, Guild of Boston Artists
-Copley Master, Copley Society of Boston
-Elected Member, Salmagundi Club
-Coors Western Art Show Patrons’ Choice Award, 2020, 2018
-Art Renewal Center International Fine Art Salon, First Place Landscape, 2018
Plein Air Magazine Award 2018, 2014
Fine Art Magazine Award of Excellence, 2015
Rehs Award, 2015
First Place Landscape, 2014
Purchase Award, 2014
-Guild of Boston Artists, Frank Benson Award, 2017
Alden Bryan Award for Excellence in Landscape, 2009
Grumbacher Award for Artistic Excellence, 1993
-Fine Art Studio Online, Boldbrush, Best in Show Award, 2016
-Copley Society of Boston, John Singleton Copley Award for Artistic Achievement

Western Art and Architecture, 2020
Representational Art Conference Magazine, 2019
Fine Art Connoisseur, 2012, 2008, 2006
Plein Air Magazine, 2013, 2011, 2018
Underpaintings Magazine, 2017
Art of the West, 2014
The Outdoor Painter, McGurl on Past Masters Series, 2015
American Artist, 2009, 2007, 2005, 2002, 1999, 1998
American Artist Workshop, 2007
American Art Collector, 2020, 2013, 2010, 2009, 2006
Cape Cod View, 2006
Sea History, 2000
Art Ideas: American Renaissance for the Twenty First Century, 1998
Boston Globe, 1991
The Review, 1989