The Legacy of Constance McClure: “Nulla Dies sine linea”.

September 6th, 2021  |  Published in September 2021

Among the treasured works of art in my personal collection is a painting on copper of a lone male figure. The model was a staple on the rosters of the Art Academy that I often drew and painted in my personal figurative work. I shared this man’s services with my friend and colleague, Constance McClure in our drawing classes at the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

We also share the drawing philosophy, “Nulla dies sine linea”, stated by Apelles, 4th Cent.BC:

“Never a day without a line”.

The Art Academy of Cincinnati is presenting a celebration of McClure’s life and work in the first floor gallery now dedicated to her contribution to this institution. The exhibition, which will be viewed August 23 through September19, 2021, features McClure’s” frescos, oil paintings, etchings, silver and gold point drawings and charcoal drawings.

The Academy Press Release for the opening of the McClure Gallery recounts her life in sedate but respectable terms. Constance was born in West Virginia in 1934, Constance moved to Florida to attend the Ringling School of Art. She found her way to Cincinnati in the early 1960’s where she finished her bachelor’s degree at Mount St. Joseph in 1971. She went on to receive her MFA from the University of Cincinnati in 1974. She began teaching at the Art Academy that same year. She remained at the Art Academy until 2019, a year before her passing in 2020.

This copy can not begin to encompass the lasting and profound impacts Connie’s teaching career has had on several generations of art students, friends and colleagues. Patient and compassionate, her demonstrations infused her instruction with the dynamics of art as a living energy. She cultivated a zest for all things “art”, and practiced examining the world through  her lens of joy, humility and above all beauty. Constance’ prolific figure work was anchored in the classic principles of the Greek and Roman masters. Her personal conviction of the dignity of every human being is manifest in every depiction of the human figure she produced.

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McClure’s metalpoint pieces are outstanding examples of draughtsmanship, silver and gold being her metals of choice. This drawing technique, flourishing in the Italian Renaissance in the hands of numerous masters, is executed on a surface prepared with pigmented textured ground compounded with a binder. The largest example by McClure in this medium on the Art Academy site is her portrait of Thomas Satterwhite Noble, who was the first head of the McMicken School of Design in Cincinnati until his retirement in 1904. Noble’s full figure is informally seated, his palette and brushes at rest. McClure’s meticulous execution contrasts the darker values of his hair and clothing achieved with many strikes of the metal with  recessed areas filled with spacial pattern.

Another art form investigated by Constance is the fresco, the wall mural technique of painting on wet laid plaster, the most famous example being the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo. McClure endeavored to rival the classic figurative compositions but also introduced contemporary subject matter. She transformed family life from photo memories, explored contemporary portraiture and local landscape, all indications of the diversification of her interest in the seeing the world through her art.

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This essay is a small attempt to recognize in part the career, work ethnic, and contributions made by the career of Constance McClure. She will be treasured and remembered by many as an extraordinarily gifted talent, outstanding professor, and a steady, authentic friend.

“Constance was a quiet and authentic presence in the art community for many years,” said Gary Gaffney, professor emeritus, Art Academy of Cincinnati. “She exemplified what an artist should be in her commitment to her work, her exploration of media, and her relentless advocacy of drawing.”

Exhibition in the Constance McClure Gallery, Art Academy of Cincinnati through Sept. 19rd.

–Marlene Steele

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