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Lloyd (Bill) Ney

Painter · Sculptor
Born March 8, 1893, Friedensburg, Pennsylvania
Died May 10, 1965, New Hope, Pennsylvania

The non-objective painter is searching for that inner order of truth, beauty and reality, not the surface aspect. - Lloyd R. Ney

Lloyd Raymond “Bill” Ney was born to Sadie Maidenford and William W. Ney in 1893 in Friendensburg, Pennsylvania. Though the family had virtually no cultural connections, Ney became interested in art at a young age and painted often without the aid of classes or a teacher. Recognizing their only child’s passion, Ney’s parents allowed him to leave high school in 1913 to study art in Philadelphia at the Industrial School of Art, now the University of the Arts, where he specialized in cast drawing. Ney flourished in his classes and transferred to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia in 1914 where he studied under Henri McCarter until he graduated in 1918. Though Ney became more technically precise in his painting, he found his experience in school lacking in creative inspiration and later recalled that, “it took my twenty years to forget the scars from five years in an art school.” However, in spite of Ney’s reservations about his academic training, the staff and faculty had such faith in his work that Ney was awarded the prestigious Cresson Travelling Scholarship in 1917, which he used following a brief tour in Europe at the end of World War I.

While travelling Ney was exposed to and quickly admired the work of Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, and William Blake. While living in the Hotel de Versailles in Montparnasse, Ney made the acquaintances of painters such as Jules Pascin, Moïse Kisling, Léonard Fujita, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and Frederick Frieseke, all of whom helped Ney think about painting in ways markedly different from his training. Ney left Paris and settled in New Hope, Pennsylvania in 1925 where he lived next door to close friend Harry Rosin, a sculptor whom he had met while abroad. Ney quickly became a fixture within the progressive New Hope Modernist art scene and bought a home now known as the Towpath House, located on Mechanic Street, which became the center of the thriving artist’s community dubbed the “Latin Quarter” populated by this new wave of sculptors and painters. He became famous for being dramatically turned down from the annual Phillips’ Mill exhibition held in New Hope in 1930 and holding a rival, Modern exhibition the day before the Phillips Mill opening in protest.

Controversy followed Ney again in 1939 when he was awarded a mural commission for the New London, Ohio post office through the Treasury Department’s Section of Fine Arts, a New Deal program. Ney’s abstracted style was a shock to Section of Fine Arts administrators but, after months of fighting for his sketch and a great deal of support from the residents of New London, Ney was allowed to paint what was then considered the first abstract mural created through a New Deal program.

Following the New London mural controversy, Ney’s style gradually became ever more abstract. He is now mainly known as a non-objective sculptor and painter, working with a variety of materials to produce textured surfaces.

Image: Photograph of Lloyd Ney by Jack Rosen, 1961, James A. Michener Art Museum

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