While the Pathfoot Building is closed, the Art Collection will each week focus on some objects of interest. You can also search our entire collection online here.
Night Sky: Magda
Jon Schueler (1916-1992)
Oil on canvas, 1973
Jon Schueler painted a series of ‘women in the sky’ works, which related to significant women from the artist’s life. The ‘Magda’ in the title of this painting is Magda Salvesen whom Schueler had first met in Edinburgh in 1970. She was to become his partner for the rest of his life. Another work in this series, ‘Night Sky: Bunty’, also in the collection, is shown below. These two works are of a significant size, and are a permanent feature in the Pathfoot Building, hanging high up in the Crush Hall.
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Jon Schueler came rather late to art, working first as a journalist, and after WWII as a teacher of literature. During the war he was with the US Airforce and the experience of extreme danger while navigating a B17 flying fortress, sitting in the clear plexiglas nose of the plane, surrounded by sky, was to have a powerful hold over Schueler for the rest of his life. Vivid descriptions of the Scottish Highlands too, related to him by Bunty Challis with whom he had an affair in wartime London (and whose name he used in the title of the painting above), similarly fired his imagination. After the war, he started part time art classes while working in San Francisco and he was influenced by Clyfford Still who was pivotal in Schueler’s decision to move to New York in 1951. Here he established himself as one of the ‘second generation’ of Abstract Expressionists (following on from Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock etc). In 1957-8 he fulfilled his long-held dream to visit Scotland, staying in Mallaig for the winter and from 1970 onwards he kept a permanent base there, at Romasaig, visiting regularly, and exhibiting successfully in Edinburgh and in the US.
An extremely prolific artist, who also continued to write throughout his life, Schueler’s main passions, reflected in his work, were for women and nature:
‘When I speak of nature, I’m speaking of the sky…and when I think of the sky, I think of the Scottish sky over Mallaig’.
The following one-hour film conversation unfortunately has poor sound quality, but it is worth trying, as the discussion about the life and creative process of this important artist is an interesting one.
This was filmed during the 2016 Jon Schueler centenary celebrations in Scotland, in which the University of Stirling Art Collection took part, hosting a major exhibition entitled ‘Speaking of the Sky’.
All images © Jon Schueler Estate