A Passion for the River: Paintings and Pastels by Bill Curran

May 2009

A born artist, Bill Curran was fascinated with the interplay between shapes, colors, and light on the Hudson River from the moment he laid eyes on it from a stunning new vantage point, the Stevens Institute of Technology campus overlook. “Within a week of moving to Hoboken, I went to Stevens to look out on the river, and it was love at first sight,” Curran says. That was 26 years ago, and now he hardly ever leaves the house without a sketchbook (a 4×6-inch Strathmore) and pastels (a 12-color set of Cray-Pas), and he’s quick to dash home to grab an easel and canvas when a sight moves him.

Regular visitors to the Museum know Bill as the kind soul who welcomes them most days of the week, helping them get to know the exhibits or find the perfect t-shirt or book as a souvenir of their visit. Others may know him as the artist intently drawing or painting from Pier A, or at a park, or at a garden gate where a newly blooming hyacinth might inspire him to race home for his easel. “I take a lot of walks to stay creative and healthy,” he says, and stops to do a sketch when something “talks” to him.

He’s been drawn back again and again to the view of Manhattan across the Hudson. After one of his pastels, “Manhattan from Hoboken,” was selected for a 1995 show at the Bowery Art Gallery by artist Jane Freilicher, he realized that the subject matter was a potent inspiration and challenge for his artistic eye and hand. He’s painted it in oils or drawn it in pastels many times over the years, following in the footsteps of one of his favorite Old Masters, Monet, who painted the Thames River and London’s Houses of Parliament from many angles at many different times of days and in various weather.

The resulting series, nearly 10 pastels on paper and 10 paintings, will be on display in “A Passion for the River: Paintings and Pastels by Bill Curran” in the Upper Gallery of the Hoboken Historical Museum starting June 6 through July 18. Please join us for an opening reception from 2 – 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 6.

Raised on the South Shore of Long Island, Curran has always been fascinated by the water, especially when his family took day trips on a motorboat to Jones Beach. Every time a motorboat goes by on the Hudson, he perks up. His work is impressionistic, with shapes and colors dominating the canvas. He has been featured in several group shows in New York City, and one-man shows at the Empire State Building, the Hoboken Public Library, Barnes & Noble, and the Hoboken Historical Museum. Every October, he participates in the Hoboken Artists Studio Tour.

Another inspiration over the years has been the Empire State Building, which he could see daily from his office window at Lord & Taylor, where he was Art Director and Illustrator for 16 years, and still features prominently in his Hudson River landscapes. He earned a degree in Advertising Design from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, and has taken art courses at several New York art schools, including the Art Students League. He now teaches art lessons privately, in addition to working at the Museum. You can see more of his work at www.billcurran.net.