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Published September 18, 2023
Alumnus Harold Garde received a 2023 honorary doctorate as the UW Art Museum prepares for a new exhibition of his work.
By Michelle Sunset, Curator
On May 13, 2023, the University of Wyoming posthumously awarded artist Harold Garde with an honorary doctoral degree, which two of his grandchildren — Samantha Garde and Andrew Joia — accepted on the family’s behalf. UW Art Museum staff were thrilled to nominate this great artist and friend for a lifetime of success in his field, which brought acclaim to UW.
Garde painted well into his 99th year, and his art career began at UW in the 1940s. He was able to attend using his GI Bill after serving in World War II in the U.S. Army Air Forces. He studied visual arts at an exciting time at UW, learning from a faculty of renowned artists including Leon Kelly (surrealist), George McNeil (abstract expressionist) and Ilya Bolotowsky (geometric abstractionist). He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1949. The influences of these mentors can be traced in his work through his process of beginning with abstraction and developing a recognizable subject, although Garde’s style is notably his own.
After graduating from UW, Garde earned a master’s degree in fine arts from Columbia University and taught painting at Nassau Community College in Garden City, New York. He later enjoyed teaching art in the Nassau County public school system. Garde’s first solo exhibition was held in Huntington, New York, in 1970. During the summer of 2022, his three most recent exhibitions were held Portland, Maine, and Orlando, Florida. While it would be difficult to quantify the number of exhibitions Garde’s work has been featured in throughout the course of his 70-plus-year career, there have been over 25 exhibitions in the last 20 years. His work has been collected by major institutions across the country, including the print library of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and internationally at the Bibliothèque Nationale (National Library) in Paris, France.
Despite his fame and accomplishments, Garde remained dedicated to the institution that gave him the opportunity to be an artist. He was a gracious host for numerous studio visits by UW Art Museum curators to his home studios and off-site storage facilities in Maine, New York and Florida over the course of the last decade-plus. Spending time engaging with Garde about his art further revealed what is evident in his work — he approached each work of art with curiosity and intellect, daring to experiment and never relenting in exploring various expressions of familiar subjects. He had a major solo exhibition of his work at the UW Art Museum in 2009, and the museum is currently working on an exhibition dedicated to his career that will open in 2024. Planning for this exhibition has been in the works for several years and is a celebration of what would have been his 100th birthday. Visit the Art Museum in 2024 to experience 100 paintings and works on paper in Harold Garde at 100: The Unseen Works.