Chimneys (Primary Title)
Born in Richmond, Benjamin Wigfall grew up in Church Hill, taking art classes at VMFA during his senior year at Armstrong High School. He received two VMFA fellowships in 1949 and 1951 while attending Hampton Institute (now Hampton University). When VMFA purchased this painting in 1951, Wigfall was only 21, the youngest artist to have a work enter the collection. A prestigious jury, which included artist Stuart Davis, unanimously selected the work for the first prize in an exhibition of Virginia artists. According to one jurist, the collective feeling was that Wigfall, “possesses very considerable talent and if he continues to progress, should become one of the most interesting of the young Virginia painters.” Wigfall later earned an MFA from Yale School of Design before returning to teach at Hampton in the late 1950s and ‘60s.
Decades later he still recalls Chimneys as one of his favorite works, because it functions as both an abstraction and an illustration of a real place: the smokestacks he observed at sunset on his near daily commute across the old Marshall Street Viaduct (since destroyed) while coming home from school. He explained, “It was my way of understanding my metaphysical world. There were no images for what I wanted to convey.”
2018-2020: VMFA Artmobile, October 18, 2018 - September 2, 2020
2009-2014: Government loan, VA Supreme Court, April 15, 2009 - April 30, 2014
2003-2006 "Generations: African American Art in the VMFA", VMFA, June 21 - November 30, 2003; Piedmont Arts Association, Martinsville, VA September 9 - October 31, 2004, CAVA, Virginia Beach, January 16, 2006 - March 16, 2006
1983-1986: Government loan, Attorney General's Office, June, 1982 - April 7, 1986
1973 - 1981: Council on Environment, October 1973 - March, 1981
1962 - 1973: LOAS
1957-1962: Loan Library
1956-1957: Loan Library, Dr. Wm. Higgins, Floyd Avenue, July 9, 1956 - July 23, 1957
1955-1956: Thalhimer's, November 23, 1955 - July 9, 1956
1951-1952: Traveling Exhibition, Virginia Artists, October 10, 1951 - June 23, 1952
Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.