Sheldon Tapley, a nationally known painter, is also a draftsman and teacher. His best-known works are still life, which depict familiar objects in lively, complex, compositions. He worked in abstraction before embracing realism, and was a landscapist before turning to still life. Over the past several years, the figure has become a more important subject in his work.
Distinguished New York art dealer Peter Tatistcheff described the images as having “a magical believability”. Tatistcheff Gallery was, for more than thirty years, one of the most prominent venues of American realist painting. Tapley’s first solo show there, in 1998, was reviewed in The New Yorker and recommended to readers.
Tatistcheff Gallery presented another solo exhibition in 2002, and sent works to a 2004 exhibition at the Evansville Museum of Art. That show included thirty of the artist’s still life paintings and drawings from the previous ten years; many of the works shown were loans from museum, academic, corporate and private collections across the United States. In 2008, The Center for Contemporary Art in Sacramento presented a major exhibit of Tapley’s art.
The Evansville Museum honored Tapley as the Martha & Merrit deJong Memorial Artist-in-Residence in 2004. He received a 1998 Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council. He has held an endowed professorship at Centre College since 2002, and is now the Stodghill Professor of Painting and Drawing.
“Tapley masterfully blends the discipline of a hard-earned classical technique with a vision that is thoroughly modern and personal,” wrote Bill Creevy in a feature article for American Artist, November 1999. The artist’s pastel, Jury Rig, was on the cover of the magazine. Kentucky Educational Television included the artist in the 2001 series Looking at Painting. He was filmed at work in his studio and at the Speed Museum in Louisville, discussing a still life painting by CÚzanne.
Centre College, where the artist has taught throughout his career, is a premier undergraduate institution with an outstanding art program. “Working with students, seeing their skill and confidence grow, is very rewarding. I have stayed in touch with many of my graduates and had the pleasure of watching their careers develop.” Tapley often works along-side his students at the easel. Many alumni artists return to campus each summer for his Centre Life Drawing and Painting Workshop, dubbed “art camp” by the regulars.
Tapley’s home is in Danville, Kentucky. He was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, in 1959, to British parents, and raised in Europe and North America. His art is represented by M.A. Doran Gallery in Tulsa.