The Stone City Art Colony and School 1932-1933
Conger Metcalf
 

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Conger Metcalf (1914-1998) - student

Born in Cedar Rapids, Conger Metcalf began his lifelong career in art at Washington High School, where he took art classes and designed covers for the school’s yearbook. As a high school junior, he entered the 1931 Iowa Federation of Women’s Clubs annual art contest and took second prize in oil painting, placing behind Marvin Cone. The painting also received an honorable mention from the 1931 Iowa Art Salon at the State Fair. Two judges for the annual Cedar Rapids garden club poster contest, Cone and Grant Wood, awarded him third place in their 1932 competition. That summer, Metcalf spent much of his time at the Stone City Art Colony and returned for the 1933 session.

Immediately following his time in the art colony, Metcalf enrolled at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, planning to become a concert pianist. While a student, he took art classes from Marvin Cone and majored in music. After graduating in 1936, Metcalf moved to Boston to pursue additional art studies at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. While there, he worked as a commercial artist and taught piano privately; he briefly returned to Coe for the 1938-39 academic year to replace Cone, who had taken a year’s leave of absence. In 1940, he won the first prize for student work at the Museum School and traveled to Mexico on a scholarship. A Tiffany Foundation scholarship (1941) afforded him the opportunity to study painting in New York and paid his tuition for an additional school year. Metcalf completed his Museum School studies in June 1941 and won first prize at the Iowa Art Salon for his oil painting, Mexican Beggar.

Drafted during World War II, Metcalf was among a group selected for Russian language immersion classes and was stationed in Algeria. By 1944, he moved to Naples and eventually relocated to Florence. In 1945, he returned to Massachusetts and was appointed Head of the Art and Music department at the Dexter School in Brookline. Beginning in 1946, Metcalf took a summer trip to Italy for collecting antique frames used with his artwork; it was a tradition he maintained for over twenty years.

By 1954, Metcalf had firmly established himself as a dominant force in the Boston art community. That year, he won first prize in painting at the Boston Arts Festival and soon joined Boston’s prestigious Copley Society. In the fall of 1960, he was appointed as an assistant professor in the School of Fine and Applied Arts of Boston University. He received tenure in 1961 and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Coe College in 1964. He resigned from Boston University in the spring of 1973 to become a full-time, independent artist but briefly continued teaching as a visiting professor at Emmanuel College in Boston and Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts (1975).

Metcalf maintained close ties with Iowa during his professional years. He returned to Coe as part of the campus’s 125th anniversary (1976) to conduct a master drawing workshop. He received an honorary doctorate from Gordon College in 1978 and donated several paintings to Iowa organizations including a painting of his ancestors’ home in Washington County to the Cedar Rapids Art Museum (1980) and selections to the Brucemore mansion in Cedar Rapids (1982). In 1988, Coe College opened a new art gallery that currently features over forty-five original Metcalf paintings. He continued to be active in the Massachusetts art community and died in Boston in 1998.

Metcalf exhibited widely, both in one-man shows and among artist groups. Featured showings include: the Cedar Rapids Public Library (1931); Chicago, Main Street Gallery (1951-1960); Public Garden, Boston Arts Festival (1951-52); International Traveling Exhibit of Prints, Boston Public Library (1956); Cambridge (MA) Art Association (1963-1968); Art Association of Newport, MA (1965); Boston, studio shows (1971-1977); Coe College, Cedar Rapids (1973,1976-1982; 1987-1990); the Boston Athenaeum (1979-1981); and the Copley Society of Boston (1979-1980).


Online Resources for Conger Metcalf:

AskArt.com. “Conger A. Metcalf: Biography.” Available: http://www.askart.com/AskART/artists/biography.aspx?searchtype=BIO&artist=101444

Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “Conger Metcalf and the Pashgian Galleries.” Available: http://www.public.coe.edu/departments/Art/metcalf.html

Stewart Memorial Library, Coe College. “Conger Metcalf Gallery.” Available: http://www.public.coe.edu/departments/Library/art_collection/galleries.html

Conger Metcalf leading 1975 masters art class at Coe College. Photo provided courtesy of the George T. Henry Archives, Coe College, Cedar Rapids, IA.

Conger Metcalf leading 1975 masters art class at Coe College.

Conger Metcalf, 1954. Photo courtesy of the George T. Henry Archives, Coe College, Cedar Rapids, IA

Conger Metcalf, 1954.

 

Photos courtesy of the George T. Henry Archives, Coe College, Cedar Rapids, IA.

   

When Tillage Begins: The Stone City Art Colony and School
Published online October 2003 by the
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