de Saisset Museum

South Bay's free museum of art and history

The Art of Richard Mayhew: Journey's End

September 26 - December 4, 2009


I want the essence of the inner soul to be on the canvas. — Richard Mayhew

The de Saisset Museum is please to participate in this three-museum retrospective of the work of Richard Mayhew. Mayhew has enjoyed a long and rewarding career, both as an artist and educator. This exhibition consists of paintings and watercolors executed from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. During this period, Mayhew was a professor of art at Pennsylvania State University. For a four-year period beginning in 1975, he would take sabbaticals from his position in Pennsylvania and drive across the country in order to teach at San Jose State University. These transcontinental sojourns, sometimes via a northern route through Canada and other times via the Southwest, provided a wealth of inspiration for his expressionistic landscapes. They are not exact evocations of any particular locations, but rather composite impressions, based on his memories of the various places he had visited.

Richard Mayhew was born in Amityville, New York in 1924. He credits his Native American ancestry (Shinnecock and Cherokee) for his love of nature. Visits to museums in New York City encouraged his early interest in art, and he studied at the Brooklyn Museum of Art School, the Art Student's League, and the Pratt Institute. He earned a degree in art history from Columbia University. In spite of the fact that Abstract Expressionism was the dominant art movement at the time, Mayhew remained dedicated to rendering the landscape. He had his first solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 1955, followed by another at the Morris Gallery. In 1959, a Whitney Foundation Grant afforded him the opportunity to travel and study in Europe. Seeing the work of the great European masters had a profound effect on his use of color, leading to experimentation with tone, space, form, and illusion.

Returning to the United States in 1963, Mayhew was a founding member of the Spiral Group, which was formed to foster encouragement and cooperation among African American artists in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. He began his career as an educator and taught at the Brooklyn Museum Art School, the Art Student's League, Smith College, and Pennsylvania State University, where he was a tenured professor. Mayhew retired from teaching in 1991 and moved to Soquel, California, where he continues to paint. His work can be found in the permanent collections of many prestigious museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

For more than forty years, Richard Mayhew has pursued his own personal vision of the landscape, variously described as Abstract, Impressionist, Realistic, and Romantic. A critic for Arts Magazine said it best: "Richard Mayhew's landscapes are really incredible color abstractions...stunning and unexpected.


The de Saisset Museum would like to thank Richard Mayhew, Dr. and Mrs. Rodney J. Reed, Stan and Marguerite Lathan, William and Brenda Galloway, Rosemary Gibbons-Mayhew, and Vanessa and Perry Graham for loaning art to this exhibition.

The de Saisset Museum would also like to extend gratitude to Ronald (class of '70) and Gwendolyn O'Neil and Richard Mayhew, who gifted works by the artist to our permanent collection. 

The art of Richard Mayhew can also be see at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (Sept. 12 - Nov. 22, 2009) and the Museum of African Diaspora, San Francisco (Oct. 9, 2009 - Jan 10, 2010).

Richard Mayhew is represented by G.R. N'Namdi Gallery in Chicago.

— Sheryl Nonnenberg, Guest Curator


Images, left to right: Richard Mayhew, New Mexico Morning, c. 1977, oil on canvas, 42 x 40 in., de Saisset Museum permanent collection, Gift of Ronald R. ('70) and Gewndolyn O'Neil, 2005.5.2. Richard Mayhew, Westwood, c. 1977, oil on canvas, 54 x 44 in., de Saisset Museum permanent collection, Gift of Ronald R. ('70) and Gewndolyn O'Neil. Richard Mayhew, Untitled, 1992, oil on canvas, 22 x 30 in., Collection of Stan and Marguerite Lathan.