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Willson, Robert, 1912-2000



  • Existence: 1912 (date of birth) - 2000 (date of death) - 2000


Robert Willson was born in Merzton, Texas and grew up in Texas and Oklahoma. He described himself as "half Texan and half Choctaw Indian." Although his mother had some Choctaw heritage, a Choctaw childhood friend was the source of his identification with the Choctaw people.

Willson graduated from the University of Texas in Austin in 1934 with a BA in English. In 1935, he was awarded a Farmer International Fellowship to study art in Mexico. There, he studied with Jose Clemente Orozco and Rufino Tamayo; he also worked briefly with Diego Rivera. After four years of teaching art in a Texas public school, he was hired as the director of the art department at Texas Weslyan College. He earned an MFA from the University of Fine Arts in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in 1941.

After serving as an intelligence officer in World War II, Willson continued his teaching and his studies. He was the founding director of the Nob Hill Art Gallery, Winslow, Arkansas, from 1948 to 1952. In 1952, he joined the art faculty of the University of Florida, Miami.

In 1956, Willson received funds from The Corning Museum of Glass to learn the history and techniques of glassmaking. In 1957, he began making annual pilgrimages to Murano, Italy to study glassmaking. Galleria d’Arte dell’ Opera Bevilacqua La Masa in Venice mounted his first solo glass sculpture exhibition in 1964. Willson gained international recognition as a glass artist and retired from teaching in 1977 to focus on his art.

Willson died in 2000.