About this Piece
In about 1976, Donald Vogel started to explore a subject that was not unique, but one under-utilized by other artists, and as it turned out, perfectly suited his temperament. As a young boy, he worked on an estate that had a greenhouse on it. Remembering this unusual light-filled space, he executed an imaginary painting of the interior of a greenhouse. He thought it such an interesting subject that he immediately painted several more. This subject provided him with an endless opportunity to investigate the lighting effects the interior of a greenhouse affords. He could explore not only the color and shapes of the blooming plants but also the light filtering through the whitewashed windows and the visual weight of the moist air proliferating through space. He could also contrast the interior cool light he created with the warm light seen through an open door or window contrasting the atmospheric juncture between two worlds. It also afforded compositional opportunities with the architectural structures he imagined that made up the enclosures. The greenhouse became a theme he would return to often in the latter part of his career.
About the Artist
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on October 20, I9I7, Donald Stanley Vogel began his formal art training at the Witte Memorial Museum in San Antonio when he was seventeen. His training, under the watchful eye of Eleanor Onderdonk, was briefly interrupted by a move to Washington, DC , where he took drawing classes at The Corcoran School of Art. He returned to San Antonio to finish high school and continued studying under Onderdonk. After graduation, he moved to Chicago in 1936 to enroll in The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist rooms of the Institute, a new world opened up to him, one that would forever influence the direction of his work. He saw art that dealt with the effects of atmosphere and light. The subjects and techniques used by these painters conveyed a sense of happiness, exuberance, and pleasure, which offered a stark contrast to the world outside stifled by the Great Depression.
While studying at the Art Institute, Vogel roomed at the Artist Community House where many students lived. This environment served as a counterpoint to the academic training he received at the Institute. It afforded the students the freedom to discuss issues in contemporary art, and freely experiment with unconventional ideas and techniques. Most importantly, this fertile environment intensified Vogel's commitment to paint.
Feeling the pinch of the Depression, Vogel left the Art Institute in 1940, and was accepted on the WPA Easel Project. This allowed him the luxury of drawing and painting from dawn to dusk. The freedom to paint at all hours focused his interest on the seemingly endless variations of light and atmosphere. With unlimited use o f a model, he produced thousands of figure drawings until, eventually freed from the necessity of working from life, he began to paint purely from his imagination.
In 1942, Vogel moved to Dallas. In 1941, while he was still living in Chicago, the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts had given Vogel a one-person show; in 1943, shortly after his arrival in Dallas, it gave him another. While working first as a set designer and then as technical director at the Dallas Little Theater, Vogel spent his free time at the easel. During the I940's he gained recognition in the art community by promoting the work of fellow artists and winning coveted purchase awards and prizes in the Texas General and Allied Arts Exhibitions for his own paintings.
In 1951, Vogel and his wife Peggy, along with Dallas arts patron Betty McLean, opened the Betty McLean Gallery. It was the first gallery in Texas to deal in modern art on an international level. In 1954, the Vogels moved the gallery to a five-acre site north of Dallas and renamed it Valley House Gallery. A new home and studio were built on the site, and were later surrounded by a sculpture garden. The new setting at Valley House deeply inspired Vogel, serving as a source for ideas, and providing a place of serenity and contemplation.
Vogel's work is characterized by his love of color, and his fascination with the changing qualities of light. A favorite subject, often revisited during the latter part of his career, is the greenhouse. He first experimented with this subject in 1976, and began using it in earnest in 1978. Having worked in a hothouse during his youth, he found it a natural subject for exploring the effects of atmosphere, light, and color. Like Monet's pond at Giverny, Vogel's greenhouses have become his signature: an imaginary place of endless fascination.
Vogel produced many catalogues for the gallery but he had never written for himself. In 1989, he penned two autobiographical short stories and published them under the title Charcoal and Cadmium Red. He found writing to be as challenging a process as painting. Now in his early eighties, author f eight works of both fiction and non-fiction, he writes and paints with equal intensity.
Donald Vogel's paintings reflect his zeal for finding joy and beauty in life, and his interest in sharing pleasure and a sense of well-being with his viewers. Endorsing this philosophy, many of his patrons have chosen to live with more than one of his paintings. This recognition of his efforts has strengthened his resolve and fueled his optimistic approach to life. Vogel entreats us to "rejoice and celebrate each new day, knowing it is a gift in itself, and produce something of worth to be shared. That is the life that has served this artist's pilgrimage."