Exhibit Opening: Tennessee Williams-Playwright & Painter

Event information
Venue:Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU

ImageMichael York, c1970’s Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) Oil and Pencil on Canvas

This exhibit features nine of Tennessee William’s paintings dating from the 1970s. The paintings are on loan from David Wolkowsky, one of Williams’ closest friends and long-standing Key West resident. Wolkowsky hosted Williams at his private island on Ballast Key, 9 miles off of Key West and at his Pier House Resort.

Williams was one of the most admired playwrights of the 20th century. While he wrote fiction and motion picture screenplays, Williams is most widely known for his plays, which are chiefly set in the South. Several of his plays including, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof are considered among the finest of the American stage. For more than 30 years, Williams lived and wrote in a cottage on a quiet Key West street. As a form of relaxation, he took up oil painting on his patio, often-sketching friends, acquaintances, and characters from his plays.

Williams first took up painting in the early 1960s when his career as a playwright slowed. People frequently visited his house on Duncan Street and purchased his artwork before the paint was dry.

While he enjoyed working on the patio, he would often escape the clamor of Key West by going to Wolkowsky’s Ballast Key, Wolkowsky recalls that Williams would bring a bottle of red wine and his oil paints when he visited. Billie Holiday songs played in the background while Williams captured different images on canvas.

The subject matter for Williams’ paintings was somewhat diverse. Aside from featuring friends and characters from his plays, some of his paintings had homosexual references. Williams, an openly gay man, struggled with his sexuality from a young age. The taboo surrounding homosexuality during his lifetime manifested itself in a number of Williams’ paintings.

Painting was a passion for Williams, almost to the point that it became a second profession. Toward the end of his life, Williams gradually gave up writing for painting; for him, painting was an easier form of self-expression. Critics did not think as much of his painting as his plays, however his artwork remains widely popular among collectors.

The exhibition will be on view from May 2 through October 7, 2018.