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Joseph Cain

A painter, muralist, and art educator, Joseph Lambert Cain’s work was consistently infused by the color and vibrancy of his native New Orleans, even as he pursued a career that took him far from home. His educational journey led him to Chicago’s Academy of Art and to the Art Students League in New York, where he was instructed by Kenneth Hayes Miller. He also studied under the abstract expressionist Hans Hofmann. In 1944, Cain was made the founding professor of art at the University of Rhode Island and served as the department’s chair until 1958.

Using thickly applied paint, layered color planes and multiple perspectives, Cain created paintings, including streetscapes, marine scenes and landscapes, which were sometimes categorized as “decorative expressionism” beginning in the late 1930s. These works were shown at such prestigious venues as the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, National Academy of Design, and Carnegie Institute. Praised for a "fresh vision that cannot be clearly traced either to contemporary American or French schools,” Cain’s aesthetic was described as “never dirty, mean or gray, but . . . always bright and luminous."

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