William Bailey American, 1930-2020


William H. Bailey was a contemporary realist painter and Professor Emeritus in Fine Art at Yale University. He is best known for his quiet, naturalistic still lifes. Bailey’s paintings have an enigmatic quality as well – the interior spaces are simple and even stage-like (Mark Strand, William Bailey (New York: Abrams, 1987), 8), and the contents of the containers are never visible to the viewer. The almost otherworldly quality of Bailey’s still lifes comes from his method of composing the paintings based on imagination rather than a real-life arrangement of objects. The blue and white salt shaker and mug in Panicale (1988) also appear in Manhattan Still Life (1980).


Bailey began his artistic training at Yale University, where he studied with Josef Albers. The flat, precise, tonal expanses of colour in Bailey’s work evokes Albers’ geometric colour field paintings. Later, Bailey divided his time between New Haven, Connecticut and Perugia, Italy. His still lifes also show the influence of the Italian artist Giorgio Morandi.


Bailey's works are held in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; The Art Institute of Chicago; Stadtisches Surmondt-Ludwig-Museum, Aachen, Germany; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven; among other public and private collections. Bailey is the subject of two monographs, one by Mark Strand and the other by John Hollander and Guiliano Briganti, and exhibited at prominent galleries including André Emmerich in New York City. He won a Guggenheim Fellowship and was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

Art Fairs