Yale Mourns Passing of Robert Reed


A memorial/celebration honoring Professor Robert Reed will take place at the School of Art on April 11, 2015, from 2-5pm at the School’s 32 Edgewood Gallery. Those planning to attend should rsvp to: Natalie.Westbrook@yale.edu.

A scholarship fund in honor of Robert Reed has been established. Memorial contributions in Robert Reed’s name may be made to and made payable to Yale University School of Art, and sent to Monica Robinson, Yale University Office of Development, Box 2038, New Haven, CT 06521-2038, with a notation for the Robert Reed Scholarship Fund.

Robert ReedArt collector and patron Bennie Johnson began collecting because Robert Reed, his professor at Yale University, urged him to do so. Don't wait until you feel that you have the funds to collect, Reed told him. So Bennie visited museums and galleries, mindful of that intent.  As a young couple, Bennie and Kera Johnson began to collect art in 2003 and now their collection includes the works of many noted artists.

Over the years Bennie Johnson fondly referred to Robert Reed's mentorship of numerous people, including himself. Reed was a gifted artist who, during his lifetime, became known as a legendary, "tough love" educator.  In 2004, when Reed won the College Art Association's distinguished teaching award, one former student wrote, “Robert didn’t simply teach me to draw, as other instructors might have done. Instead, he taught me how to see, so that I could then teach myself to draw.” 

Robert Reed, Initial the Paths, 1999–2002, acrylic and oil marker on canvas, 72 x 60Reed was admired for how the seemingly opposite traits of rigor and empathy combined seamlessly in his personality. Yale alums got a glimpse of this spirit when a reporter for the alumni magazine asked Reed why he participated in the pomp and ceremony of commencement. "It touches our humanity," Reed replied.  "It makes us feel something that is a little bigger than us, and it’s also a shared experience with colleagues and friends and people who are really important to thank. It’s important that we pay homage to all of those people."

On December 27, 2014, Bennie Johnson learned that Reed had transitioned from a friend who also studied with Bob Reed. On December 28, 2014, Robert Storr, dean of the Yale School of Art, posted the following announcement on the university webpage.


 Robert Reed, Washington Park. Courtesy of Martin Museum of ArtIt is with great sadness that I must report the death of Robert Reed, who has been a member of the faculty of School of Art’s Department of Painting and Printmaking for almost fifty years and was the beloved mentor of generations of young talents that benefited from and valued his “tough love” style of teaching. For the past several years he fought cancer with exceptional courage and determination while continuing to dedicate himself wholeheartedly to his students. He leaves an enormous hole in the heart of the School and a legacy unrivaled in the number of years he taught or the number of young people he initiated into the complexities and satisfactions of artistic practice and thereafter inspired in the pursuit and appreciation of art.

After studying at Morgan State, a historically black college in Baltimore, where he received his B.S. in 1958, Reed attended Yale where he received his B.F.A. in 1960 and his M.F.A. in 1962. In 1969 he was appointed a Professor of Painting and Printmaking. After that he served several stints as Director of Undergraduate Studies at the School and was also Director of Graduate Studies in Painting. During the summer between his own undergraduate and graduate years Reed was a student at the Yale School of Art and Music in Norfolk where he eventually taught for several years and, from 1970 to 1974, was its Director before establishing his own summer program in Pont-Aven, France where Gauguin painted from nature at the outset of his career in the mid- to late 1880s.

Reed’s boldly articulated and richly hued geometric abstractions were widely exhibited and collected. Among the places they appeared in group shows were the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, the Biennial of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C., the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Yale University Art Gallery. Reed had solo shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Bayly Museum in Charlottesville, Virginia; the Washburn Gallery in New York; and the McIntosh Gallery in Atlanta. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Hirshhorn Museum, the Walker Art Center, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the Bayly Museum.

In addition to a long affiliation with his alma mater Reed lectured extensively in this country and taught at Skidmore College and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, where he was head of the Foundation Studies Division in 1964. He is the author of several intensive studio programs. He has also been a fellow at Yaddo and a board member for the McDowell Colony and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. In 1980 he was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2000 he received the national award from the National Council of Art Administrators, and in 2001 he received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. In 2004 Mr. Reed received the Distinguished Teaching of Art award from the College Art Association, and in 2009 he was elected to the National Academy Fellowship in New York. His work is represented by David Findlay Jr. Fine Art in New York.

Robert Reed will be sorely missed by colleagues, former students, and by his many friends in the Yale community as well as in the art world at large. In countless ways he made an indelible mark on the Yale School of Art and on those, passing through it, whose eyes and minds he opened and to whose hands he helped give purpose and confidence. Robert Storr, Dean