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Sun, 08.18.1935

Simmie Knox, Portrait Artist born

Simmie Knox

*Simmie Knox was born on this date in 1935. He is a Black artist.

From Aliceville, Alabama, his father was a carpenter and mechanic. After Knox's parents divorced, he lived on a farm in Leroy, Alabama, with his father's sister. This arrangement occurred while his father lived and worked in another city until young Knox was nine. As a boy, his first love was baseball, which he played with friends, one of which was Hank Aaron. Yet a ball hit Knox in the eye during a game, forcing him to put the game down for more than a year.

A doctor recommended that Knox find something to do to help his eyes focus, and the nuns at his community school (Heart of Mary) started him drawing.  Later Knox was a biology major at the University of Delaware, but the pictures he created were so skilled he changed his major to art education. He graduated from Tyler School of Art at Temple University (BFA, Magna Cum Laude, MFA) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Knox wanted to teach art in public schools, which he did for 18 years. He also taught at various colleges, universities, and public schools in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Washington, D. C. during the 1970s, exhibited as an abstract artist, and worked for the Museum of African Art in Washington, D. C.

In 1971, he participated in the Thirty-Second Biennial of Contemporary American Painting at The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C. with his abstract art.  Knox as an artist, has specialized in oil portraiture for over twenty years. He turned to portraiture because he found nothing more challenging and interesting to paint than the human face.

A father of three, he feels that a good portrait is the most difficult thing for an artist to complete successfully because one must get an accurate likeness and create a good painting. Somehow it would help if you communicate a subject's character, spirit, and personality; everything must speak the subject's energy.

Knox’s portrait paintings include Frederick Douglas (1975), Alex Haley (1977), Justice Thurgood Marshall (1989), Bill Cosby and family (1983-1991; 12 portraits), Muhammad Ali (1995), Bishop John T. Walker (1995), Mr. And Mrs. Henry Aaron (1996). Knox was commissioned to paint the White House portrait of President William J. Clinton and more.

Knox has been described as "the unofficial portraitist for trailblazing African Americans," adding paintings to his portfolio of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and a sculpture of the mayor of Baltimore, Clarence Burns. In 2013 a short film was created and shown about Knox's life by the Delaware Humanities Forum.

Recently, Knox did the portraits of Joseph A. Johnson Jr., James Lawson, Walter R. Murray Jr., and Perry Wallace, four Black alumni of Vanderbilt University, in 2018. They hang in Kirkland Hall, the administration building.

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