Best remembered for an intense color palette applied across a spectrum of maturing styles, George Lee Bireline spent the majority of his career balancing his artistic exploration with a commitment to teaching as professor emeritus of design at North Carolina State University. From his earliest figural abstract paintings, to Abstract Expressionism, accurate illusionism, narrative scenes, and finally to his trademark color field paintings, Bireline’s oeuvre was consistently informed by his interest in important human issues, including social justice, health and sexuality, environmental stewardship, and religious faith.
A native of Peoria, Illinois, Bireline served in the European theater of World War II from 1942 through 1946. Upon his discharge from the military, he studied painting at Bradley University (BFA, 1949) and later pursued an advanced degree at the University of North Carolina (MFA, 1963). In the mid-1960s, the artist was represented by the Andre Emmerich Gallery in New York City, a gallery known for its New York color school artists, and attracted the attention of the country’s leading art critics. In 1967, he was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. He showed widely during his lifetime, including two major retrospectives (North Carolina Museum of Art and City Museum of Contemporary Art, Raleigh, NC) and group exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Butler Institute of American Art, Walker Art Center, Dayton Art Institute, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Bireline’s works are held in the collections of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, North Carolina Museum of Art, and Duke University Museum of Art, among others.