Born in rural Arkansas, Carroll Cloar and his siblings inherited his family’s cotton farm in 1928. Though he would travel far beyond his boyhood home to study, paint, and exhibit, Cloar’s work consistently incorporated nostalgic images from his Southern childhood, often merged with dreamlike motifs, into powerful magic realist scenes. Freshly armed with a degree from Southwestern College (now Rhodes College), Cloar embarked on a post-graduation tour of Europe in 1934. Upon his return, he enrolled in the Memphis Academy of Arts and studied with the artist George Oberteuffer. In 1936, he moved to New York to pursue additional art training at the Art Students League. There, Cloar’s achievements earned him a McDowell fellowship which he used to travel across the American Southwest, West Coast and Mexico. While serving with the Army Air Corps during World War II, Cloar was deployed to Saipan and Iwo Jima.
Upon his return from the war, Cloar was awarded a Guggenheim traveling scholarship to fund an extended sojourn to Central and South America in 1946. Two years later, several of his autobiographical lithographic images were featured in a Life magazine article titled “Backwoods Boyhood.” Following a yearlong visit to Europe in 1954, Cloar settled permanently in Memphis, where he produced stirring narrative paintings, often executed in casein tempera and acrylic paints. His career gained national acclaim, with works included in the collections of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Brooks Museum of Art, and Library of Congress. In 1993, Cloar’s painting Faculty and Honor Students, Lewis Schoolhouse was one of six paintings by American artists selected to commemorate the inauguration of President Clinton.