Remembering Illinois Artist Harold Gregor
Editor’s note: Harold Gregor passed away on Oct. 8, 2018. We’re including this story as it was originally written as a tribute to the Illinois artist.
Flying into Illinois from California for a job interview in 1970, art professor Harold Gregor peered out of the plane’s window and spotted the fresh subject matter he’d been looking for.
“There it was, the Midwest landscape with the corn growing high. It was very dramatic,” recalls Gregor, who ended up moving there and painting large images of corn cribs.
His big break came when he won first place at an art show and the juror told a big-name New York gallery owner about him.
“I got this letter saying they were going to show my work,” Gregor says. “That’s a letter you don’t get very often from any New York gallery.”
In 1972, he painted his first “flatscapes,” aerial perspectives of the state’s farmlands. He has since painted 116 of them, he notes, along with numerous watercolors and acrylics of Constitution Trail and other central Illinois sites. In his second-floor Bloomington studio, he often moves from station to station, working on various types of pieces.
In yet another surprise call, then-senator Barack Obama’s secretary phoned one day to ask if Gregor had any landscape paintings that would fit on a 14-foot wall. President Obama later took the 5-foot-by-7-foot piece with him to the White House, where it hung in his private dining room.
“No living artist is allowed to have work on the first floor of the White House,” Gregor says proudly. “He was breaking the rules to hang my painting.”
While most of his fans are not so well-known, they often tell Gregor how his art has helped them appreciate the natural landscapes they see as they drive along Interstate 55.
“That’s really a compliment,” he says. “It’s wonderful that you can change somebody’s view of their perceived world.”