Tennessee Williams with his bulldogs
Tennessee Williams with his bulldogs, 1958, Photo by Don Pinder

Tennessee Williams, one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century, was also a painter. While he used his plays to explore the dynamics of the American South and his tumultuous upbringing, Williams turned to painting to express other private thoughts.

The exhibition “Tennessee Williams: The Painter and the Playwright” is on view through April 11, 2021 at The MAX in Meridian, Mississippi.

Tennessee Williams oil painting
Tennessee Williams, “Le Solitaire,” 1977, oil on canvas board, Courtesy of the Key West Historical Society

“There’s a fragility to his paintings or a shyness. We are allowed in, to gain a glimpse into Williams’ innermost thoughts and struggles,” said Stacey Wilson, Curator of Exhibitions at The MAX.

A native of Columbus, Mississippi, with other childhood years spent in Clarksdale, Williams as an adult lived in New Orleans, New York, and Key West, Florida. He is closely associated with the literary heritage of the latter. He wrote plays, short stories, screenplays, poems, and essays, with the bulk of his success realized between the mid-1940s and early 1960s. Despite his success, he struggled with alcohol and drug abuse as well as depression. He used writing and then painting as coping mechanisms.

Portrait painting by Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams, “L’inconnu: C’est les Yeux,” 1981, pastel on canvas, Courtesy of the Key West Historical Society, Portrait of David Wolkowsky
Figurative painting
Tennessee Williams, “The Blaze of the Moment,” ca. 1970s, oil on canvas, Courtesy of the Key West Historical Society
Multi-figure painting by Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams, “Sulla Terrazza della Signora Stone,” ca 1970s, oil and pencil on canvas, Courtesy of the Key West Historical Society

Cori Convertito, PhD, Curator of the Key West Art & Historical Society, created “The Painter and the Playwright” because she wanted to show that Williams was multifaceted. “The intention of this exhibition is to showcase the playwright in a more developed narrative using his paintings as the catalyst, revealing his more personal side, the side that found comfort in Key West’s carefree lifestyle,” said Convertito. “He moved with relative anonymity around the island despite his international fame. That, plus the relative acceptance of the homosexual community on the island, made this an attractive place for Williams to live and work.”

The exhibition is generously sponsored by The Community Foundation of East Mississippi. The foundation strongly favors collaboration among nonprofits and other entities, and is a longtime supporter of The MAX.

“We really just want to build relationships and be involved with what’s important to our community, to see our community thrive and grow,” said CFEM Executive Director Leigh Thomas. “The fact that Tennessee Williams is a native Mississippian is not lost on me. The people of Mississippi are our greatest asset, and the talent that we have should not go unsung.”

For more details, please visit msarts.org.

> Sign up to receive Fine Art Today, our free weekly e-newsletter

> Click here to subscribe to Fine Art Connoisseur magazine, so you never miss an issue



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here