John Colt

Year inducted: 2008
1925-1999

Son of artist Arthur Colt who operated his own art school in Madison for decades, John Colt earned his individual reputation during the 33 years he served as professor of art at UW Milwaukee. In a 1999 Journal Sentinel article Bruce Pepich, Director of the Racine Art Museum and Wustum Museum said that John was “One of the three most important living Wisconsin artists.” John’s paintings, drawings, and prints have been exhibited in countless shows at such venues as the Art Institute of Chicago, Library of Congress, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and placed in such collections as the Whitney Museum in New York City. Twice his paintings were purchased through awards from the Ford Foundation. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1943-1946 as an electrician on a submarine in the South Pacific, after which he earned a bachelor's degree in art education and a master's in art at UW-Madison. Throughout his productive life John’s painting style evolved from one of abstract but solid renderings of the natural world to evanescent interpretations of the ephemeral in nature. He searched tide pools, roadsides and the unnoticed small natural vignettes where he sketched ideas for future paintings. His work has been said to concern itself with growth and metamorphosis in which he examined countless small living creatures who share this planet with us . . . life forms that humans often ignore and abuse. As critic James Auer said, “Many fine contemporary artists, skilled both as observers and as reporters, are content to paint the world as they know it. John Colt is different: he has painted the world that will survive us.”

Works by John Colt