Donald Vogel’s paintings reflect his interest in seeking beauty in life and in sharing pleasure with his viewers. Vogel entreats us to "rejoice and celebrate each new day, knowing it is a gift in itself, and produce something of worth to be shared. That is the life that has served this artist's pilgrimage."
Donald S. Vogel has been a set designer and technical director in the theater, a fine art dealer, and a writer, but first and foremost he is a painter. From a young age he was intrigued by the possibilities of creating images. The excitement and pleasure derived from the act of creation continued to be the force that compelled him to paint throughout his life.
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Donald S. Vogel began his formal art training at the Witte Memorial Museum in San Antonio when he was seventeen. His training, under the watchful eye of Eleanor Onderdonk, was briefly interrupted by a move to Washington, DC , where he took drawing classes at The Corcoran School of Art . He returned to San Antonio to finish high school and continued studying under Onderdonk. After graduation, he moved to Chicago in 1936 to enroll in The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist rooms of the Institute, a new world opened up to him, one that would forever influence the direction of his work. He saw art that dealt with the effects of atmosphere and light. The subjects and techniques used by these painters conveyed a sense of happiness, exuberance, and pleasure, which offered a stark contrast to the world outside stifled by the Great Depression.
While studying at the Art Institute, Vogel roomed at the Artist Community House where many students lived. This environment served as a counterpoint to the academic training he received at the Institute. It afforded the students the freedom to discuss issues in contemporary art, and freely experiment with unconventional ideas and techniques. Most importantly, this fertile environment intensified Vogel's commitment to paint.
Feeling the pinch of the Depression, Vogel left the Art Institute in 1940, and was accepted on the WPA Easel Project. This allowed him the luxury of drawing and painting from dawn to dusk. The freedom to paint at all hours focused his interest on the seemingly endless variations of light and atmosphere. With unlimited use of a model, he produced thousands of figure drawings until, eventually freed from the necessity of working from life, he began to paint purely from his imagination.
In 1942, Vogel moved to Dallas. The previous year, while he was still living in Chicago, the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts had given Vogel a one-person show; in 1943, shortly after his arrival in Dallas, the DMFA gave him another. While working first as a set designer and then as technical director at the Dallas Little Theater, Vogel spent his free time at the easel. During the 1940's he gained recognition in the art community by promoting the work of fellow artists and winning coveted purchase awards and prizes in the Texas General and Allied Arts Exhibitions for his own paintings.
In 1951, Vogel and his wife Peggy, alongside Dallas arts patron Betty McLean, opened the Betty McLean Gallery. It was the first gallery in Texas to deal in modern art on an international level. In 1954, the Vogels moved to a five-acre site north of Dallas and opened Valley House Gallery. The new setting at Valley House deeply inspired Vogel, serving as a source for ideas, and providing a place of serenity and contemplation.
Vogel's work is characterized by his love of color, and his fascination with the changing qualities of light. A favorite subject, often revisited during the latter part of his career, is the greenhouse. He first experimented with this subject in 1976, and began using it in earnest in 1978. Having worked in a hothouse during his youth, he found it a natural subject for exploring the effects of atmosphere, light, and color. Like Monet's pond at Giverny, Vogel's greenhouses have become his signature: an imaginary place of endless fascination.
Vogel produced many catalogues for gallery artists but he had never written for himself. In 1989, he penned two autobiographical short stories and published them under the title Charcoal and Cadmium Red. He found writing to be as challenging a process as painting. During his eighth decade, he wrote and painted with equal intensity.
“The agony and ecstasy I felt while producing each work was welcomed, as each required the other to fulfill the quest. And the quest remains to produce works that should delight the eye, give pause for thought, heighten the spirit, and sense the awareness of our being,” wrote Donald S. Vogel in 1998, on the occasion of his Retrospective exhibition and catalogue.
Donald S. Vogel's work is included in the following collections:
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Beaumont Museum of Fine Art, Beaumont, Texas
Charles Goddard Center, Ardmore, Oklahoma
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas
Fine Arts Museum of the South, Mobile, Alabama
Ft. Worth Art Association, Ft. Worth, Texas
Old Jail Foundation, Albany, Texas
Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philbrook Art Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma
The Pennsylvania Trust, Radnor, Pennsylvania
Tyler Museum of Art, Tyler, Texas
Witte Museum, San Antonio, Texas