John N. Colt (1925 - 1999)

Birth date: 5/15/1925 Death date: 4/28/1999  
Birth location: Madison, Wisconsin Death location: Amhurst, Massachusetts  
Media: Painting / Acrylic , Painting / Oil , Pastel Web site:
Fair (file rating) - MWA artist file may include basic data, and additional newspaper articles, book references, exhibition information, and images that can be researched on site at MWA.


John Nicholson Colt
Born 1925 in Madison, Wisconsin
Died 1998 in Amherst, Massachusetts

Declared by university scholars and museum directors to be one of Wisconsin's most important 20th century artists. John Colt's father, Arthur Colt, was the founder of  Colt's  School of Painting in Madison, Wisconsin;  he also ran summer schools of painting in Black River Falls and Devil's Lake and was John's earliest exposure to art making.  World War II intervened and he enlisted to serve as an electrician on a submarine in the U.S. Navy. In 1946 he returned to Madison to study art education at the University of Wisconsin and earned bachelor and master of art degrees. Later he taught crafts in Richland Center and Janesville, Wisconsin, spent a year teaching high school in Australia, and then joined the faculty of the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee. In 1957 he became an art instructor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee where he spent the next 33 years until his retirement in 1990. A popular and talented professor of art, he believed in encouraging students to develop their unique forms of self expression.

Describing his own approach to creating art, he stated,” I’ve never been interested in the panoramic scene as much as I have the little areas - little realms of experience, nature close-up." He painted images of miniature land and sea creatures, dried fruits and vegetables; creating luminous effects and giving them an abstract quality with delicate lines and shapes. He found inspiration in his travels to the Oregon and California coasts, Mexico, the Bahamas and Haiti where he and his wife, artist Ruth Kjaer, had a second home. During his tenure at UWM, he also spent time as visiting professor at the American University in Beirut and the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, Northern Michigan University in Marquette and Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.

John Colt's work has been widely exhibited and is represented in numerous private and museum collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY,  the Milwaukee Art Museum, WI, the Wright Museum of Art, Beloit College, WI, Museum of Wisconsin Art, West Bend, WI, Munson-Williams – Proctor Institute, Utica, NY,  Grand Rapids Museum, MI, Le Centre D’Art, Port Au Prince, Haiti, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, Teatro Mario, Milwaukee, WI,  Burpee Museum, Rockford, IL, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, WI and the UWM Art Museum Collection.

Selected One-Person Exhibitions

1962 John Colt:Wisconsin Artist, Milwaukee Art Center,
Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN; Northern Michigan University, Marquette, MI.,Burpee Art Museum, Rockford, IL 
Colt on Paper, Wright Art Center, Beloit, WI; John Michael Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, WI,Charles A. Wustum Museum of Art, Racine,WI. 
Cincinnati Academy of Art,OH., Stewart Neill Gallery, New York, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC 
Musee d'art Haitian,Port- au- Prince, Haiti. 
Perimeter Gallery, Chicago; Grace Chosey Gallery, Madison, WI 

Selected Group Exhibitions

1950, 1973
Wisconsin Painters and Sculptors, Milwaukee Art Center, WI 
Whitney Annual Exhibition of American Painting, Whitney Museum of Art, New York 
1962 Walker Biennial, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
Art Across America, Knoedler Gallery, New York 
1975, 1978
 Wisconsin Directions, Milwaukee Art Center 
1987 Chicago International Exposition, Navy Pier 
100 Years of Wisconsin Art, Milwaukee Art Museum
Wisconsin Triennial, Madison Art Center, WI


John Colt: 5 Decades of Work [Exhibition Records]
                    Obituary, Milw Journal-Sentinel, April 28, 1998
                    Reviews- John Colt Retrospective,  John Colt's Recent Works

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