Carroll Cloar was one of the most famous artists to call Memphis home. He was a Realist painter whose works occasionally took on a Surrealist slant. One of his most well-known paintings is My Father is as Big as a Tree, which is owned by the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. His paintings are in public and private art collections throughout the country. The Pink Palace Museum has several of his preliminary sketches as well as his army uniform and two of his cameras in our collection.
Cloar was born in Earle, Arkansas in 1913 to a farming family. He moved to Memphis in 1930 to attend Southwestern (now Rhodes College) and study English. After graduation, he traveled around Europe before returning to Memphis to study at Florence McIntyre’s Memphis Academy of Art on Adams Avenue. He followed George Oberteuffer to a new school on Front Street before going to New York in 1936 to continue his studies. He did a series of lithographs based on his hometown, which earned him a fellowship to travel the western United States and Mexico.
In 1940, Cloar joined the Army Air Corps and served in the Pacific theater as a radio operator. He also painted the noses of bomber planes in his spare time. After the war, he won a Guggenheim fellowship and travelled throughout Latin America and Europe before moving back to the Bluff City permanently in 1955. He bought a house on 235 S Greer, just to the east of the Pink Palace Museum.
Cloar based many of his works on his memories and photographs of the Mississippi Delta where he grew up. Marilyn Masler, registrar at the Brooks Museum of Art, wrote, “…his interpretation of these people, places, and incidents represents a distillation of his personal Arkansas boyhood experiences in the early twentieth century.” Carroll Cloar died in 1993 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest after a four year battle with cancer. Three years later, the site of his home and studio was subdivided and the new street was named Cloar Cove.
Caroline Mitchell Carrico works in the Exhibit Department at the Memphis Pink Palace Museum. She has a graduate degree in history from The University of Memphis, and her favorite artifacts are the Cold War civil defense supplies.