In Memoriam of Michael Mazur, Class of 1957


Michael Mazur '57, "Self Portrait"

The Mead Art Museum is honored to present this special tribute to Michael Mazur (1935–2009), organized in memory of the admired painter and printmaker, who ranks among the most distinguished artists to graduate from Amherst College.

A prolific artist known for his stylistic dexterity and mastery of multiple media, Mazur demonstrated interest in art at an early age.  He became an active member of the art club at New York’s Horace Mann School in the early 1950s.  While a Fine Arts major at Amherst, Mazur took literature courses with Alfred Kazin, and studied printmaking with Smith College’s Leonard Baskin, who nurtured his student’s passion for the visual as well as the literary arts.  Literature remained an important touchstone for Mazur throughout his education and career.  He attended graduate school in Fine Arts at Yale, where his engagement with graphic arts deepened.

Mazur devoted his fifty-year career as an artist to a dynamic exploration of abstraction and figuration, an investigation he most often conducted by depicting nature.  He was particularly fond of and adept at rendering trees, forms that he saw as analogous to human bodies.  Natural imagery facilitated his lush, fluid painting technique, which betrays the influence of Abstract Expressionism. The expressive illustrations Mazur created for poet laureate Robert Pinsky’s translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy Inferno (1993) rank among his best-known works.
Mazur was also a dedicated teacher and arts advocate, having held instructional posts at the Rhode Island School of Design, Brandeis University, and Harvard University.  He was active on the boards of Boston’s Artist Foundation, the Council for the Arts and Humanities, and as an Overseer of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  Mazur returned to Amherst in 2004 as Robert Frost Fellow to lecture, conduct critiques with students, and teach printmaking with Professor Betsey Garand.

The Mead is fortunate to hold more than one hundred paintings and works on paper by Mazur, making the museum one of the largest repositories of his work.  The collection is especially rich in the artist’s prints, which testify to his exceptional command of wide-ranging techniques, including aquatint, lithography, and monotype.  Paintings include Brown Branching and Autumn, both of which beautifully exemplify Mazur’s elegant gestural style.  The most recent addition to the museum’s collection of works by Mazur is Self Portrait, an impressive likeness of the artist in mixed media.  In 1997, the museum organized the traveling retrospective exhibition, Branching: The Art of Michael Mazur.  A comprehensive list of the Mead’s holdings of Mazur’s work is available here.

Mazur was featured in over 150 solo and group exhibitions, including shows at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife, poet Gail (Beckwith) Mazur—whom he met while studying at Amherst—he was a prominent figure in the Boston, Provincetown, and New York arts communities.  In further recognition of his abundant talent and irrepressible inspiration, Mazur received awards from the Tiffany Foundation, The National Institute of Arts and Letters, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Southern Graphics Council. His art is held by prominent national and international collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

A special display of the Mead’s holdings of Mazur’s art will be available for public viewing in the museum’s Study Room from Friday, September 4, through Sunday, September 6, during museum open hours.

To read obituaries of Mr. Mazur, please click on the publication titles below.
Boston Globe
Boston Phoenix