Renowned painter, LSU Professor dies at 63

Renowned painter, LSU Professor dies at 63
LSU Office of Communications and University Relations

POSTED: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - 2:41pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - 2:51pm

BATON ROUGE, La (LSU) -- Renowned painter and LSU School of Art Professor Michael Crespo died Sunday, Nov. 14 in Baton Rouge after a battle with cancer. He was 63.

As a painter, Crespo was well known for his powerful yet sensitive paintings of animals, which are done in a style of fantastic realism characterized by strong contrasts between light and dark. His oil and watercolors are included in many public and private collections throughout the U.S., and his work has graced the covers of magazines and publications, including four best-selling books he published on the fundamentals of painting.

“Michael Crespo was an all-around master,” said Rod Parker, director of the LSU School of Art. “He was disciplined and rigorous as a painter, and understanding as a teacher.”

As a professor, Crespo was beloved for putting his students first and selflessly sharing with them his advice and expertise. He was a member of the faculty of the School of Art for nearly 40 years, serving as director of the school from 1990-1996 and as interim director in 2002-2003. He delighted in teaching students at every level of the program, and received the university’s Distinguished Faculty Award in 1999 and an endowed Alumni Professorship in 2000.

“He was respected by colleagues from across the university and the wider community, and adored by his students for his patience and generosity of spirit,” Parker said. “His brave vulnerability in the face of death was an inspiration to so many. His loss will be deeply felt in the School of Art.”

Crespo was born in New Orleans in 1947 and moved to Baton Rouge as a child. He attended LSU and received his bachelor’s degree from the School of Art. He attended graduate school at Queens College, CUNY, and received a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1970, before returning to Baton Rouge and joining the faculty of the School of Art the following year.

Over the next three decades, he established himself as one of the leading southern artists of the day. Among the collections where his work appears are the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the Aquarium of the Americas, both in New Orleans; Hunter Museum of Art in Chattanooga, Tenn.; Nordstrom’s Inc. in Seattle; Taco Bell Corporation corporate headquarters in San Diego; Promus Corporation headquarters in Memphis, Tenn.; and the Duke Energy Collection in Houston. His many awards included an artist fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts/Southern Arts Federation and a Visual Arts Fellowship from the Louisiana Division of the Arts.

“The art community is so sad because he was an icon in the art world,” said local art dealer and gallery owner Ann Connelly. “He was one of our most influential professors of painting who has left a great legacy through his teaching and his body of work.”

Crespo is survived by his wife, painter Libby Johnson, and two grown children. Arrangements are pending.

Click here to view a collection of his works.

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