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Remembering Philip Morsberger

Philip Morsberger, The Moment of Truth, 1994—2000. Oil on canvas. Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia.

Philip Morsberger, Man with a Necktie, 2000. Oil on canvas. Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia

Philip Morsberger – a long time Augusta resident, and nationally acclaimed artist – died Sunday from COVID-19 complications. He was 87.

Morsberger moved to Augusta, GA in 1996 when he became the William S. Morris Eminent Scholar in Art at Augusta University. He held the endowed professorship until 2001.

Morsberger also taught at Harvard University, Dartmouth University, UC Berkeley, the California College of Arts and Crafts, and other institutions.

Born in Baltimore in 1933, Morsberger discovered art with his grandfather, who would pencil changes in daily newspapers' illustrations, and became the boy's first art teacher. He began formal study at the Maryland Institute College of Art as a scholarship student in 1946, when he was just 13. Morsberger continued his studies at La Grande Chaumiere in Paris; the Carnegie Institute of Technology; and at England's Oxford University.

From 1971 to 1984, Morsberger returned to Oxford as the Ruskin Master of Drawing at the university's Ruskin School of Art – the first American to attain the mastership.

Morseberger developed his distinctive style in the 1970's. He is remembered for his vibrant colors, quirky, cartoonish figures, and dynamic sense of movement.

Morsberger’s work is in many museums, including Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the San Jose Museum of Art, the Morris Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Atlanta in Georgia; and many others. He exhibited widely in the United States and Europe.

Morsberger was the subject of the 2007 book Philip Morsberger: A Passion for Painting by Christopher Lloyd. He and his work also were the topic of or included in numerous other books and catalogues, including Susan Landauer’s The Lighter Side of Bay Area Figuration(2000), J. Richard Gruber’sPhilip Morsberger: Paintings and Drawings from the Sixties(2000) and Marcia Tanner’s Philip Morsberger(1992).

“His gifts to the community are numerous, but perhaps the greatest of them was his presence and the shining example he provided of the creative life,” said William Morris founder of the Morris Museum of Art.


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