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Name Downing, Joseph Dudley, 1925-2007
Birth Date 11/15/1925
Place of Birth Tompkinsville, KY
Death Date 12/29/2007
Place of Death France
Father Eldridge Downing
Mother A.C.
Relationships brother of Dero Downing
Nationality American
Education WKU 1946-1947
Northern Illinois College of Optometry, 1950
Chicago Art Institute
Occupation Artist
Archives Entries 100
Library Entries 3
Object Entries 1060
Photo Entries 33
Notes Citation: "Laymen View Downing Art," College Heights Herald, March 25, 1964.

Even people who do not ordinarily like abstract art found themselves able to appreciate the work of Joe Downing Sunday.

The titles of many of Mr. Downing's paintings concerned time. Mr. Downing explained his preoccupation with time because of its impalability – because it is "existence and non-existence at the same time." Kentucky which he visited in the late summer of 1962, is the "place in many of his paintings over which time has passed."

Mr. Downing explained his choice of orange and blue as the primary colors in most of the paintings in that they are nature colors – the colors of "day and night, and sun and moon, leaf colors, sun colors." However, he likes to avoid dissecting the source of his work "lest it go away."

Mr. Downing was opposed to abstract art by the beginning of his career, but soon found that "bit by bit the visibile subject was eliminating itself from my work, almost despite me." He believes that a good artist follows his work as well as he leads it.

He now makes his home in France, because "there one has an intangible feeling of the passage of great artitsts which gives off riches." He finds the light in France different, more light and clear. He didn't plan to stay, but "feels right for painting there."

When Mr. Downing visits a museum, he said that he ususally goes to the old painters, those of the 15th and 16th century. He also likes the early Italizn primitives and the work of Jerome Bosch.

He believes that "pop" art goes no deeper than momentary amusement. It is good satire like a "good issue of the 'New Yorker'."

To most non-painters, the question of why does a painter paint arises. Mr. Downing can not explain his reasons, only that it is a pleasure. "I'm not happy when I'm not doing it. When I found it, I knew this was what I wanted."


1925, November 15 - Joseph Dudley Downing born Tompkinsville, Kentucky, son of Eldridge and A.C. Downing

1927-1944 - grows up in Horse Cave, Kentucky

1945- artilleryman in France during World War II

1946-1947 - attends WKU studying art under Ivan Wilson

1947-1950 - receives optometry degree from Northern Illinois College of Optometry; attends Chicago Art Institute

1950 - vacations in France and stays, eventually settling in Menerbes; works for UNESCO, the American Embassy, Shell Oil and Readers' Digest while painting.

1952-1955 - exhibits annually in Paris, France and Charleston, West Virginia; Pablo Picasso views his work

1958 - exhibit Gaerie Arnaud, Paris, France

1960-1969 - exhibits in Paris and Grenoble, France; Verviers, Belgium; Tokyo, Japan; Bowling Green and Louisville, Kentucky; Cincinnati, Ohio; Atlanta, Georgia; Seattle, Washington; Newcastle, England;

1961 - wins Prix de la Jeune Peinture Internationale

1962 - exhibit at Art Center Gallery, Louisville, Kentucky; wins Prix International de Jeune Peinture

1969 - exhibit at Diddle Arena

1978 - exhibit at Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer Gallery, New York City

1980 - exhibit in Horse Cave, Kentucky

1982 - exhibit at Owensboro Museum of Fine Art; exhibit at Huntington Galleries, Huntington, West Virginia

1983 - KET produces "Joe Downing: The Hidden River"; exhibit at Capital Arts Center Gallery in Bowling Green, Kentucky

1984 - Joe Downing: New Works exhibit at Headley-Whitley Museum, Lexington, KY; also exhibited in France and Sweden

1988 - Joe Downing: The Art of an International Kentuckian exhibit at the Kentucky Museum, WKU

1993 - Joe Downing: Recent works exhibit at the Kentucky Museum, WKU

2007, December 29 - dies in France


College Heights Herald

"Downing Interviewed on Brinkley Report," December 12, 1961

"Former Student is Featured in Courier-Journal," March 4, 1960

"Native Artist Returns to This Country for His 'Best' Exhibit," September 15, 1988

Photo with caption "Joe Downing, a former Wester student has been lauded by art critics on three continents, will present a one-man display on campus March 22. Downing's work with staples and razor blades has given him a unique position among his contemporaries. A resident of Paris since 1950, Downing has returned with 40 paintings and 40 stapleages which are being displayed in Chicago and Louisville," March 18, 1964.

Park City Daily News

"Artist Downing Featured on KET," August 4, 2000

Bauer, Angela. "French Ask Downing to D-Day Fete," April 21, 1994

Book review: "Kentucky Caves Influence Artist," April 22, 1984

"Downing Exhibit Being Held Over," November 7, 1988

"Downing Exhibit is Worth Viewing," September 15, 1988

"Downing Exhibit Near Closing," June 28, 1993

"Downing Exhibit Slated," September 25, 1983

"Downing Exhibit Will Have Surprises," March 31, 1993

"Downing Exhibits Latest Work," June 28, 1982

"Downing's Art Works to be Shown Here," March 12, 1964

Glenn, Ray. "Park Row Paragraphs," October 25, 1961.

"Joe Downing Exhibit to Open," March 26, 1993

"Joe Downing Left His Mark on Art World," January 3, 2008

"Joe Downing Praised by French Magazines," January 20, 1985

"Local Artist Mourned," January 1, 2008

"Local Artists Works Shown in Frankfort," June 27, 1991

Morgan, Stacy. "Downing Recalls Kentucky Roots," May 4, 1984

"Videotape Captures Essence of Artist," April 27, 1984

Photo with caption, "An American Painter in Paris," June 1, 1982

Photo with caption, "Banner" Riley Handy looking at painting, November 16, 1988

Purcell, Denise. "Exhibit Showcasing Downing's Life," September 9, 1988

"Kentucky Museum Opens Display of Downing Art," September 12, 1988

"Owensboro Museum Acquires a Major Downing Painting," November 20, 1987

Ribar, Richard. "An Art Force: Painter Joe Downing Gains an International Reputation," ca. 1979.

Stringer, Donna-Lin. "Glass Artists Finish Version of Downing's Work for Show," September 3, 1989

"Western Public Television Plans Broadcasts of Show Documenting Joe Downing's Life," January 4, 2008

Louisville Courier-Journal

"Artist, Folk Columnist Sharing Wester Day," May 9, 1969

"Artist Joseph D. Downing, 82, Dies," January 1, 2008

"Downing in New York," May 28, 1978

Heilenman, Diane. "A Tribute to an Artist," June 18, 2000

Howerton, Jean. "Parisian from Horse Cave," February 14, 1960

"Joe Downing Returns," March 28, 1993

"Joe Downing Show," October 2, 1983; May 20, 1984

Lansdell, Sarah. "Downing Show Opens Today at Owensboro," June 6, 1982

"Downing's Paintings Reveal a New Energy," June 8, 1980

"Joe Downing's Art: A Three-way View," July 4, 1982

"Return of a Native," May 11, 1980

"Style and Light Will Illuminate a Downing 'Event'," May 18, 1980

Osinski, Bill. "Cave Country's Brush with the Art World," May 15, 1980

Documents & Primary Sources

SC1746 Dero Downing Papers - inventory -

UA3/3/1 Kelly Thompson Subject File - inventory -

UA51/3/3 Fanlight, Vol. 9, No. 1 -

VHS - Joe Downing: Poet of Color and Light, 2008

WKU Public Information. "Joe Downing, 'American Artist in Paris,' Comes Home to Horse Cave," 1980

"Joe Downing Exhibit Opens at Kentucky Museum This Weekend," Sept. 6, 1988.

WKU Spirit. "Unique Gift from U.S. Bank Will Support Various Programs at WKU," Spring 2008.

Associated Records

Image of Papers -

Papers -

Letters from Downing to "friends at the Kentucky Museum"; one discusses at length a Downing painting titled "Saint Francis of Assisi Upside Down, and Several Colleagues Agape."

Image of Papers - Downing, Dero Goodman, b. 1921

Papers - Downing, Dero Goodman, b. 1921

Letter from Dero Goodman Downing to Sandra L. Staebell related to the graveside service for his brother and artist, Joseph Dudley Downing. Includes Downing's tribute to his brother.

Image of UA3 President's Office Series 3. Kelly Thompson Subseries 1. Subject/Correspondence File - WKU President's Office - Thompson

UA3 President's Office Series 3. Kelly Thompson Subseries 1. Subject/Correspondence File - WKU President's Office - Thompson

Correspondence to and from Kelly Thompson regarding university administration and other issues, arranged alphabetically by subject and correspondent.

Image of Papers - Wilson, Ivan, 1889-1981

Papers - Wilson, Ivan, 1889-1981

Correspondence, photographs, sketches and drawings, writings, journals and clippings of or relating to Ivan Wilson, an artist and faculty member in the Art Department at Western Kentucky University from 1920 to 1958. Includes some materials related to other artists.

Image of Papers - Downing, Joseph Dudley, 1925-2007

Papers - Downing, Joseph Dudley, 1925-2007

Correspondence of artists Joe Downing and Jean-Pierre Remon with Elinor Green (later Hunter). Also includes letters from Joe's brother, Dero Downing, related to the potential donation of artwork to WKU.

Image of Joe Downing -

Joe Downing -

Color poster with black lettering promoting the latest works of art by Joe Downing "Oeuvres Recentes" at the Galerie Bellint on November 15, 1978. The poster is signed by Downing. 45 x 55

Image of Joe Downing -

Joe Downing -

Large poster for the exhibit of Joe Downing's work at the Galleri Krakeslatt in Bromolla, Sweden, November of 1984. 100 x 70 cm.

Image of Joe Downing -

Joe Downing -

Large poster for the exhibit of Joe Downing's work at the Galleri Krakeslatt in Bromolla, Sweden, November of 1984. 100 x 70 cm.

Image of Records - Bob Gates

Records - Bob Gates

This collection contains information and documentation about the Community Scholars Program's workshops held in Hart County, Kentucky during the summer of 2010. The collection features projects by all participants with special focus on the Mammoth Cave project by Del Maria Vaccaro and interviews conducted by Mary Margaret Villines related to Kentucky artist Joseph Dudley Downing.

Image of New Space New Works -

New Space New Works -

Invitation to the opening reception of New Space New Works exhibit of new works by the late Joe Downing at the Ellis Walker Gallery on May 18, 2012. 14 x 20.4 cm.

Image of Governor's Awards in the Arts invitation -

Governor's Awards in the Arts invitation -

Invitation to the 1999 Governor's Awards in the Arts ceremony and reception held in the Rotunda, Kentucky State Capitol Building, Frankfort, KY. Joe Downing is recipient of the National Award. Includes a booklet regarding winners of 9 awards and a response card. 13.9 x 10.8 cm.

Image of An Evening in Shakertown invitation -

An Evening in Shakertown invitation -

Invitation to An Evening in Shakertown with the David Humphreys Orchestra, Saturday the sixteenth of June at six thirty in the evening at the 1824 Centre House, South Union, Kentucky. Featured artwork by Joe Downing. 17.8 x 12.7 cm.

Image of Joe Downing's Lyrical Abstraction [invitation] -

Joe Downing's Lyrical Abstraction [invitation] -

Invitation which reads: Huntington Galleries Invites You to Meet the Artist Joe Downing at the opening of Joe Downing's Lyrical Abstraction on Sunday, June twenty-ninth Exhibition commentary with the Artist Two O'clock Reception Three Unil Five O'Clock Huntington Galleries, Park Hills, Huntington, West Virginia 25701 12.4 x 15.3 cm.

Image of Trans Financial Bank's Eighth Regional Art Show [invitation] -

Trans Financial Bank's Eighth Regional Art Show [invitation] -

Invitation which reads: Joe Downing New Paintings and Sculpture from Paris October 26 - December 20, 1986 Hours: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. and by appointment. You are cordially invited to the opening of an exhibition of new works by Joe Downing Sunday, Octobert 26, 2:00 - 5:00 p.m. Triangle Gallery 522 W. Short Street, Lexington, Ky. 40508 (606)233-1263 10.6 x 14 cm. Library copy's envelope addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Riley Handy.

No Image Available

Les Portes de la Vie with Joe Downing invitation -

Invitation which reads: Mr. Jerry Baker requests the pleasure of your company to honor Mr. Joe Downing and to celebrate the installation of "Les Portes de la Vie" in "La Pavillon des Portes." Saturday, May 11, 1996 5:30 until 8:00 pm The Baker Arboretum 4701 Morgantown Rd. Bowling Green, KY 42101 Phone 502.842.9489 Fax 502.781.6914 RSVP by April 26, 1996 Verso features a photograph of Joe Downing and Les Portes de la Vie 16.1 x 11.8 cm.

No Image Available

Kentucky Expatriates: Natives and Notable Visitors exhibition preview invitation -

Invitation which reads: OWENSBORO MUSEUM OF FINE ART cordially invites you to attend a preview of KENTUCKY EXPATRIATES: Natives and Notable Visitors Saturday, April 28 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Gallery Talk 7:30 p.m. Ulfert Wilke Kauai, Hawaii Artist and Educator R.S.V.P. 901 Frederica Street Owensboro, Kentucky 42301 (502) 685-3181 Invitation's cover is "Ever So" Jo Downing, Paris, France Oil on 19th Century Linen Sheet 109" x 82" 11.8 x 15.5 cm.

No Image Available

Joe Downing's Lyrical Abstraction exhibition talk and reception invitation -


No Image Available

Joe Downing - New Works exhibition reception invitation -

Invitation which reads: The Headley-Whitney Museum requests the pleasure of your company at a reception for the exhibition JOE DOWNING - NEW WORKS Sunday, May 13, 1984 5:00 until 8:00 P.M. Old Frankfort Pike Lexington, Kentucky Wine and hors d'oeuvres RSVP (606) 255-6653 Exhibition - May 2-July 8, 1984 12.3 x 15.3 cm.

Image of Joe Downing -

Joe Downing -

Poster print of Joe Downing taken in Menerbes, France; he is shown with several large pieces of his art. 38 x 28 cm.

Image of Downing & Trout exhibits [pamphlet] - Western Kentucky University

Downing & Trout exhibits [pamphlet] - Western Kentucky University

Two sided brochure with one side issuing an invitation to the Allan M. Trout Collection's reception and first public showing in the Allan Trout Room of the Kentucky Building and the other side issuing an invitation to an exhibit of paintings by Joe Downing, May 18, 1969, 1-5 p.m., Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Ky. Both sides include biographical sketches, photographs and information about their work. 21.7 x 9.6 cm. Folded.