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Ralph Brownell McGrew (American, 1916-1994)


Also known as:  McGrew, R. Brownell

R. Brownell McGrew once said of his painting technique, "I am an Impressionist in the classical sense. Reality comes from the suggested rather than from the detailed or the finished. My paintings are not exact copies of any of the scenes I see." Ironically, it is Brownell's very attention to detail and to the "finished" composition - he mixed linseed oil and turpentine with his paints to achieve a "fresh-off-the-easel" wet look - that characterizes his exquisite Native American portraits and desert landscapes. A native of Columbus, Ohio, McGrew studied and later taught painting at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles before working as a commercial artist for Columbia Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. It was on sketching trips into the desert, from California to Arizona to New Mexico, that McGrew befriended Navajo and Hopi Indians, whom he painted with sensitivity to both personal character and physical accuracy, emphasizing, for example, weather-wrinkled skin and tousled grey hair.

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