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May 22 - June 23, 2013
Shands Gallery and Street Gallery, Second Floor

Carlos Cortez Coyle (1871-1962) was a self-taught painter who spent the early part of his life in Dreyfus, Kentucky. In 1889, he briefly attended Berea Foundation School (now Berea College) where he was introduced to Appalachian arts and crafts through teacher and Director of Fireside Industries Jennie Lester Hill. Early drawings of birds, plumes, feathers and goddesses are found in an old school diary that he kept while attending the school. Coyle left Berea before graduating for reasons unknown and moved to Florida and then to Canada in an attempt to make a living in farming. Drought caused him to make a career change into the building trade, which came to a close during World War I. After the war, Coyle moved to San Francisco to begin his trade again, but was unsuccessful due to the Great Depression. In 1929, at the age of 60, Coyle took up oil painting and completed overa hundred works between 1929 and 1942.

In 1942, prompted by his failing health, Coyle paid to ship four crates from San Francisco to Berea College containing 47 paintings, 35 drawings and an illustrative diary of his work. Shortly after the unannounced shipment to Berea, Coyle sent a letter of intent stating, “I am resolved to give my art to the land of my birth where I played and spent most of my youth.” The paintings were left crated and put into storage where they remained until 1960 when Berea College art professor Thomas Fern discovered the work and held Coyle’s first exhibition. At that time, Coyle was 88 and suffering from blindness in Leesburg, Florida. He wrote a letter of thanks to the school for showing his work in the art gallery. Carlos Cortez Coyle died two years later in 1962. He was 90.


C.C. Coyle’s paintings are a collection representing Kentucky and West Coast landscape memories ranging in themes of nature, motherhood, astronomy, industrial progress, the passage of time and spirituality. The bulk of his work was made in the 1930’s in the time frame of President Roosevelt’s Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration and the Surrealism movement. 


Categorizing C.C. Coyle in an art historical context is challenging. He is self-taught but uses proportion and realistic depth that defies the Folk Art label. Coyle’s boldness of color and brushstroke and lack of conventional restraints is comparable to 20th Century naïve artists.

Selected Pieces

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