Carl Morris’ “History of Religions” returns to the Barker Gallery at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

EUGENE, Ore. -- (December 13, 2012) – The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art will once again display "Carl Morris: History of Religions," an exhibition of nine murals created for Oregon's Centennial Exposition in 1959. The murals will be on view in the Coeta and Donald Barker Gallery from December 21, 2012, through January 20, 2013.


The “History of Religions” series was acquired by the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art after the Oregon Centennial Exposition ended and has only been shown once, in 2007, since its inaugural exhibition in 1959. In 2010, the JSMA was the recipient of an IMLS American Heritage Preservation Grant for conservation of the murals.


The 1959 Oregon Centennial Exposition was created to tell "The Oregon Story."  One pavilion had the challenging task of representing the history of religious faiths. Carl Morris, arguably Portland’s most accomplished painter at the time, was selected to paint mural panels, each over 8-by-8 feet in size, depicting 100 years of Oregon’s religious history.


Morris, concerned about how to sensitively and accurately represent nearly 200 faith traditions active in the state, focused on what he identified as one common element: the intersection of light and man. He was given only eight weeks to complete the series of paintings before they were installed in the Expo’s Hall of Religions, a ten-sided building designed by architect Ken Richardson in which visitors would be surrounded by the murals. The results of his labor, which evoke the religious experience in Oregon through bold color, expressive gesture, and Morris’s characteristic luminosity, are considered some of the painter’s finest work.


These murals, appropriately monumental in scale, are a series of abstract symbols represented though Morris’ explorations of form, space, light, color and texture. The installation is curated by Danielle Knapp, McCosh fellow curator. Knapp will lead a gallery talk on Wednesday, January 16 at 5:30 p.m.


“He was an exceptional painter, and the work is made even more powerful by the intensity of viewers’ individual responses to it,” says Knapp. “Morris was adamant that art should be experienced, not explained.”


Carl Morris (1911–93) was born in Yorba Linda, California, and received his early art education from master ceramicist Glen Lukens (American, 1887–1967). Upon seeing José Clemente Orozco (Mexican, 1883–1949) at work on his fresco mural “Prometheus” at Pomona College in 1930, Morris dedicated himself to painting. He studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1931 to 1933, before receiving fellowships to paint in France and Austria.


After his return to the United States, Morris was hired as director of the new Spokane Arts Center and was later awarded a Public Works of Art Project commission for two murals in the Eugene Post Office. This significant achievement convinced Morris and his wife, sculptor Hilda Grossman (American, 1911–91), to settle permanently in Portland, though both maintained ties to their artistic circles in Grossman’s hometown of New York City. At mid-century, as he moved away from figurative art and his style became increasingly abstract, Morris continued to draw his inspiration from the geography and atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest. Morris passed away in 1993.



About the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

The University of Oregon's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is a premier Pacific Northwest museum for exhibitions and collections of historic and contemporary art based in a major university setting. The mission of the museum is to enhance the University of Oregon’s academic mission and to further the appreciation and enjoyment of the visual arts for the general public.  The JSMA features significant collections galleries devoted to art from China, Japan, Korea, America and elsewhere as well as changing special exhibition galleries.  The JSMA is the only academic museum in Oregon accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.


The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is located on the University of Oregon campus at 1430 Johnson Lane. Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays through Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens. Free admission is given to ages 18 and under, JSMA members, college students with ID, and University of Oregon faculty, staff and students. For information, contact the JSMA, 541-346-3027.


About the University of Oregon

The University of Oregon is among the 108 institutions chosen from 4,633 U.S. universities for top-tier designation of "Very High Research Activity" in the 2010 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The UO also is one of two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities.


Contact: Debbie Williamson Smith, 541-346-0942,


Link: Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art,