Youngstown, OH, May 18, 2021 – The Butler Institute of American Art at 524 Wick Avenue in Youngstown, Ohio is delighted to announce the opening of an exhibition of baseball paintings just in time for summer. Max Mason: Painting the Game will open Sunday, June 13, 2021 at 12:00pm in the museum’s Giffuni Gallery on the second floor, where the artist will present a gallery talk at 2:00pm. The exhibition will be on view through September 5, 2021. Admission to The Butler and Max Mason’s gallery talk are free.
Staying with the magical theme of baseball in Painting the Game, Max Mason presents a virtual clinic on composition and color usage to bring to life the nostalgia in what has been called “America’s favorite pastime.”
Executive Director and Chief Curator of The Butler, Dr. Lou Zona describes the artworks of Mason as “impressive on a variety of levels.” Zona pronounces Max, “a masterful draughtsman who can lay down paint in the manner of the old masters.” Zona adds, “In a museum filled with exquisite paintings, the works of Max Mason more than hold their own. The Butler is delighted to present this outstanding exhibition of the work of Max Mason.”
The Butler Permanent Collection contains works by Max Mason, including a quadriptych of paintings (Spring Training Batter, Spring Training Catcher, Spring Training Fielder, and Spring Training Pitcher) or one of the four of them usually displayed in the museum's Donnell Sports Gallery. The full set of paintings will be hung together as part of the Painting the Game exhibition.
In an excerpt of his artist statement for the exhibition, Max Mason recalls how his relationship with The Butler began:
“When people responded enthusiastically to my first painting relating to baseball in art school, I was surprised. My main professor and mentor, Neil Welliver, said ‘I like the psychology of that!’ pointing to an oil sketch of a Red Sox outfielder in deep center field. It was done from memory and was very different than the work I was doing at the time. Something must have registered deep inside because a few years later I did a series of pastel drawings of imaginary scenarios akin to those fantasies I had as a ten-year-old. A whole show of large oils based on the pastels followed, some of which are in this show. Lou Zona happened to see the show and that’s how my relationship with the Butler began.”
In the statement, Mason goes on to say that his early baseball paintings were more representative of the figures, light, space, and envisioned action of a baseball game compared to the recent works which are mostly about the stadiums, the fans and landscape of the cities they are in. He muses, “All are a throwback to a certain twelve-year-old boy’s imagination. He is at his grandparents’ house in suburban St Louis surrounded by the love of family, his baseball cards, and his fantasies of baseball. The fantasies are as real as his actual experience and the hope of that time. All things were possible, and a scrawny twelve-year-old boy could pop out of the cool of the Cardinals dugout with a bat in his hands and win the game while the crowd cheered. I owe a deep gratitude to Lou Zona for his encouragement and support. This exhibit is dedicated to him.”
ABOUT MAX MASON
Max Mason (Ill) grew up in Lincoln, Massachusetts. After graduating from Vassar College with a degree in Geology in 1975 he came to Philadelphia to study at the University of Pennsylvania with landscape painter Neil Welliver in 1981. For twenty years he taught drawing, painting and design at various Philadelphia colleges and universities, predominately Drexel University. He is represented by the Gross McCleaf Gallery in Philadelphia where he has shown his landscape, still life and baseball paintings since 1985.
He has painted several murals for the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, and completed a 10' x 160' mural, "Pennsylvania Agriculture", for the State of Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg. A lifelong baseball fan, he began painting baseball subjects at Penn and had his first one person show of baseball paintings at the Butler Institute of American Art in 1991. He was commissioned by the Phillies to paint three 10' x 30' murals of Philadelphia baseball stadiums for Citizens Bank Park and has done a number of paintings for the Minnesota Twins. In 2010 he started The Ball Park Project, an endeavor to paint large, dynamic, fan-oriented paintings of all 30 Major League Baseball ball parks, six of which are included in Painting the Game. His most recent one-person show is Sky Light, Paintings of the Missouri Landscape. He has two grown daughters and lives with his wife in suburban Philadelphia.
ABOUT THE BUTLER
The Butler Institute of American Art (BIAA) in Youngstown, Ohio, is known worldwide as “America’s Museum”. Founded in 1919 by businessman and philanthropist Joseph G. Butler, Jr., the Butler is the first museum dedicated to American art. The original museum structure, constructed of Georgian marble in the Italian Renaissance Revival style, is considered a McKim, Mead and White architectural masterpiece, and is listed as a landmark on the National Registry of Historic Places. The Beecher Center, housed in the south wing of The Butler, is the first museum addition dedicated solely to new media and electronic art. For over 100 years The Butler has served as a center for cultural enrichment, making great American art accessible to all people pro-bono through its free admission policy and art programming. The museum relies on the support of contributions from the community and the nation to meet its cultural mission—to preserve and collect works of art in all media created by citizens of the United States. Its holdings now exceed 22, 000 artworks, and pieces from The Butler Collection are loaned to museums throughout the world.