VMFA mourns the recent passing of Richmond-born artist Benjamin Leroy Wigfall (1930-2017). When the museum purchased his painting Chimneys in 1951, Wigfall was only 21, the youngest artist to have a work enter VMFA’s permanent collection. Wigfall was interviewed by the museum in 2003 and 2016 and was the subject of a program held at VMFA in early February.
By KATHERINE CALOS Richmond Times-Dispatch
Walking across the Shockoe Valley viaduct around 1950, Benjamin Leroy Wigfall saw art where others merely saw smokestacks.
The result was “Chimneys,” an oil-on-canvas painting that in 1951 won a juried exhibition and made him the youngest artist and third African-American artist to enter the collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Mr. Wigfall had already won a fellowship from the VMFA to study at Hampton Institute (now University). He went on to get an MFA from Yale and retire after 30 years as an art professor at the State University of New York in New Paltz and as a gallery owner in Kingston, N.Y.