The Knoxville Museum of Art Presents The Knoxville 7

An Exhibition Dedicated to the History and Legacy of Seven

Groundbreaking Mid-Century Artists

January 29–April 17, 2016



December 7, 2015 (Knoxville, TN) – The Knoxville Museum of Art is proud to present the first-ever exhibition dedicated to the history and legacy of the groundbreaking artists who worked and exhibited together in the fifties and sixties and eventually became known as The Knoxville 7.  The KMA-organized exhibition, on view from January 29–April 17, 2016, features more than 60 works culled from the museum’s extensive holdings, augmented by loans from collectors around the region.


The brash, ambitious artists who exhibited together as The Knoxville 7 shared the common visual language of Abstract Expressionism, producing what are likely the first abstract art works in East Tennessee and establishing a foothold for modern art in the region. In the early 1950s, C. Kermit “Buck” Ewing, first head of the University of Tennessee’s art department, recruited a group of young artists—initially Carl Sublett, Walter Stevens, Robert Birdwell—who exhibited actively in Knoxville and throughout the Southeast. While Sublett and Stevens shared an exclusive interest in the landscape as a point of reference for their abstractions, Birdwell and Ewing often found inspiration in urban settings and the human figure. Sometimes they exhibited as a foursome and other times as The Knoxville 7 with fellow artists Joanna Higgs Ross, Richard Clarke, and Philip Nichols. This important exhibition brings into focus a richly productive period in the art history of the region and also attests to the depth of the museum’s growing holdings of works by Knoxville 7 artists.


The opening for the exhibition is Thursday, January 28, 2016 from 6 to 8pm with a short program at 6:45pm. This event is free and open to the public. Additional programs surrounding The Knoxville 7 exhibition include:


  • Dine & Discover with Historian and writer Jack Neely, Wednesday, February 3, 12-1pm
  • Dine & Discover with KMA Curator Stephen Wicks, Wednesday, March 16,      12-1pm
  • Dine & Discover with Knoxville 7 Artist Joanna Higgs Ross, Wednesday, April 13, 12-1pm


Presenting sponsor for The Knoxville 7 is the Frank and Virginia Rogers Foundation with additional sponsorship from the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Media sponsors include Big Wheel, Kurt Zinser Design, and WBIR.


Editor’s Note: Two electronic images are attached.  Captions for images are listed separately below. Images from all seven artists available on request.


Philip Nichols (Freeborn County, Minnesota 1931; lives and works in Knoxville), Form in Steel, 1963-64. Welded steel, 30 x 19 x 14 inches, Knoxville Museum of Art, gift of the Sublett Family, 2010


Walter H. Stevens (Mineola, New York 1927-1980 Deer Isle, Maine), Tour Trap, 1957. Oil paint on canvas, 48 x 64 inches, Knoxville Museum of Art, gift of the Ewing family in memory of Mary and C. Kermit "Buck" Ewing, 2007



The Knoxville Museum of Art

The Knoxville Museum of Art celebrates the art and artists of East Tennessee, presents new art and new ideas, serves and educates diverse audiences, and enhances Knoxville’s quality of life. The museum is located in downtown Knoxville at 1050 World’s Fair Park and is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday 10am–5pm, and Sunday 1pm-5pm. Admission and parking are free. For more information, contact Angela Thomas at 865.934.2034 or visit