Paul F. Keene Jr.
Paul Keene, photo courtesy James A. Michener Art Museum library
BORN: August 24, 1920, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
DIED: November 26, 2009, Warrington, Pennsylvania
Through deeply personal pictures Paul Keene brings together the painter's visceral love of color with the mystery of memory and the subconscious mind. Mr. Keene is a quiet man who chooses to speak with line, shape, and -- most passionately -- with color. Always avoiding the didactic, he gives us hints and suggestions, then leaves us to discover our own meaning in his work.
Paul F. Keene, Jr. was a painter whose vibrantly colorful work told stories about the African American community in Philadelphia as well as personal anecdotes. Keene explored the symbolism of African American life and culture in his paintings. He created new icons of black urban life with his portraits of jazz musicians and documentation of the movement and vitality present in city life.
Keene worked primarily with acrylic paints on paper and described his painting style as “abstract realist.” Color serves as the compositional key in the artist’s works. His many window scenes and landscape studies demonstrate his skillful manipulation of scale, color, light, and atmosphere. He often utilized grid-based compositions juxtaposed against concentric circles of radiating color that the artist considered his “unconscious” personal symbol.
Keene also taught painting and drawing at the Bucks County Community College from 1968 to 1985, serving as the Art Department Chairperson for three years. He has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum. Keene’s work was also exhibited in Paul Keene (1991), Paul Keene: His Art and His Legacy (2005), Art Speaks: Celebrating the Bucks County Intermediate Unit Collection (2010-2011), Facing Out, Facing In: Figurative Works from the Michener Art Museum Collection (2011), The Painterly Voice: Bucks County’s Fertile Ground (2011-2012), and Parting Gifts: Artists Honor Bruce Katsiff, Director/CEO, 1989-2012 (2012) at the James A. Michener Art Museum.