James Linehan: P I N G E R E, D I S C E R E, D O C E R E PAINT, LEARN, TEACH

May 17 – September 7, 2024


When first entering James Linehan’s exhibition one may have an initial impression that the bodies of work in the two galleries are from two different hands and poles apart in terms of approach. How can an individual artist produce such seemingly different work?  

In one gallery, we encounter Burning Down the House, a mammoth wall installation of bold, non-objective paintings arranged from the floor to the top of the wall. Various-sized colored canvases, each with bold gestural marks, dominate our field of vision. As one shifts attention to the adjoining room, we encounter an array of somewhat realistic landscapes depicting Maine environments, from verdant woodlands to rock-bordered seascapes. 

What unites the abstract and landscape works are the artist’s brushstrokes, surface treatment and, importantly, how these elements remain linked when subjected to shifts in scale. For instance, when isolated sections of Linehan’s landscapes are magnified, there are visual connections to the scaled-up brushstrokes in his abstract compositions.  

While the exhibition features a number of realistic landscapes, a style of which Linehan is most known, it also includes a new series of landscape paintings that are more loosely rendered. These spirited paintings, recently completed in 2023 and 2024, are on display for the first time in this Zillman exhibition. Inspired by a spontaneity that emerged through creating his abstract works, the new landscapes reflect an unbridled energy, lively color, and a freedom in mark-making. Linehan states, “My canvases from 2024, such as Old Soul, are willful and combative, but also wide open, suggestive and playful.”  

A focal point of the exhibition is a large wall that offers a glimpse into Linehan’s sources of inspiration, along with demonstrating the convergence of art-making and collecting. Tree Tower features a salon-style hanging of antique and modern etchings and prints depicting trees by other noted artists and collected by Linehan. Hanging next to this grouping is the artist’s nine-foot-tall painting ARBOR MAGNA MAGNA. He shares, “When I conceptualized this show I was determined to recognize some of the artists and ideas behind my own art. Many of the authors of these prints are magnificent masters of line.” This pairing celebrates the artistic achievement of others while offering a contemporary contemplation of a familiar subject.  

James Linehan received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and taught painting and drawing for 45 years, including 40 years as a Professor of Art at the University of Maine. He retired from the University of Maine in 2023 and is now Emeritus Professor of Art. 


James Linehan painting of a large tree truck with abstracted background       James Linehan abstract painting in a variety of colors and textures

Left: JAMES LINEHAN (American, born 1953). Old Soul, 2024. Oil on linen. Courtesy of the artist & Littlefield Gallery.

Right: JAMES LINEHAN (American, born 1953). ME FECIT – I Made This, 2023. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of the artist & Littlefield Gallery.