William Bailey: Looking through Time


With essays by Mark D. Mitchell and John Yau

And an interview with the artist by Clifford Ross

This publication considers the work of William Bailey (1930–2020), the Kingman Brewster Professor of Art at Yale and one of the University’s most distinguished studio art faculty members since Josef Albers. Bailey’s career was marked by a dedication to representational painting — placing him alongside artists like Janet Fish, Audrey Flack, Alex Katz, and Philip Pearlstein, who defied the prevailing taste for abstraction in the mid-twentieth century. From his many iterations of tabletop still life that began in the 1960s to his career-long commitment to the human figure, Bailey concentrated on the rudiments of representational art: form, color, line, medium, surface, and light. His artistic inspirations spanned centuries, from Raphael and Piero della Francesca to Giorgio de Chirico, Giorgio Morandi, and Piet Mondrian, with Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Paul Cézanne in between. Published to commemorate a retrospective exhibition held at the Yale University Art Gallery, this book is the first survey of his work in nearly thirty years. Full-color plates capture the meditative quality of his paintings, drawings, and prints; special attention is given to his still-life paintings in oil, such as the Gallery’s Still Life—Table with Ochre Wall (1972). Two in-depth essays offer complementary perspectives on Bailey’s work, and an interview with the artist by his former student Clifford Ross captures his voice and vision. While Bailey is revered by generations of Yale graduates, this volume introduces him to a deservedly wider audience and offers a new foundation for the study of his art.


“William Bailey: Looking through Time” is an essential contribution to our understanding of this enchanting and extraordinary painter.—Andrew Shea, The New Criterion