Today we celebrate the birth of Lamar Dodd, one of the most important driving forces behind the Georgia Museum of Art, second only to Alfred Herber Holbrook. Born in 1909 in Fairburn, Ga., Dodd was immersed in his artistic training starting at the age of 12, when he enrolled in classes at LaGrange College. He continued his education, studying during a brief stint at Georgia Tech and teaching art in rural Alabama, until he realized he wasn’t going to evolve as artist if he remained in the South. Dodd made the move to New York City, where he took classes at the Art Students League and learned his craft from artists such as Boardman Robinson, a well-known illustrator and political cartoonist. It was also during his time in New York that Dodd was exposed to the nativist art of the 1920s and 1930s, greatly influencing his style.
Dodd returned to Alabama in 1933 to work in an art supply store while continuing to paint, emphasizing the techniques and styles of local, southern art in his works. Four years later, he was involved in a national movement to incorporate working artists into universities, and he was appointed to the faculty of the University of Georgia, where, within another three years, he merged all teaching of the visual arts into one department, now name the Lamar Dodd School of Art.
It was during the 1940s when Dodd met Holbrook and collaborated with him on the embryonic stages of GMOA. During one of his trips to Athens, Holbrook became acquainted with Dodd and eventually took classes under him, creating some of his own works both in and out of the classroom. While helping establish the museum during the later 1940s and 1950s, Dodd began travelling farther and farther out of Georgia, eventually making it up to Monhegan Island, Maine, where he briefly painted the landscapes that had inspired artists such as Abraham Bogdanove and Robert Henri. Dodd also travelled to Europe to improve upon his work by studying examples from the Old Masters. Furthermore, he served as a cultural emissary for the State Department and journeyed to Asia and the former Soviet Union. The styles he observed during his travels to these places influenced his techniques, evident in his brighter palette from that period.
Dodd was also invited by NASA in 1963 to document parts of the space race in art. This commission began his more scientifically themed phase of painting, which lasted through the late 1970s. He used monochromatic tones in blacks and whites to symbolize the voids of space or lunar glares, occasionally embellishing elements with metallic silvers and golds. Space wasn’t enough for Dodd, and he turned his attention to the human body, painting representations of X-rays and tissue studies to create the Heart series, an artistic manifestation of how he viewed the human heart.
He reverted to painting scenes of the natural world in the 1980s and 1990s, the later years of his life. Dodd died in 1996, months after the Lamar Dodd School of Art had was dedicated to him. His legacy continues in the art school as well as in GMOA, where many of his paintings reside in our permanent collection as his gifts to Holbrook and all who wish to see them.