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Charles Heaney

American, 1897-1981


Oconto Falls 1897

Occupation or Type



Northwest artist

Oregon artist


If ever an artist exhibited a strong sense of what Oregon Country represents, it was Charles Heaney. He arrived in Portland as a teenager with his mother and sister in 1913 after his father died. His first job as an apprentice to a jewelry engraver was a stepping stone to his real art education that began at the Museum Art School. It was there he began to discover the talent that allowed him to express himself. At first, his interest was in prints, woodcuts, and linoleum blocks. It would be some years before he turned to painting. He painted only as long as it held his interest; sometimes he would put a piece aside for as long as ten years, then take it up again as a fresh outlook spurred his interest. He worked in many media, mastering one and then turning to something different. He returned to the School in 1937 to study engraving, leading to his innovative fossil paintings with relief surfaces. The Portland Art Museum honored him in 1952 with a retrospective of his work.

Like so many others, he came to revere C.S. Price. He adopted Price's ideal of the simple life with almost obsessive dedication to his art. There are occasional similarities in their brushwork and color palette, but Heaney's work shows a more personal, intimate touch. Heaney loved eastern Oregon, where he traveled extensively throughout the area and, with camera in hand, took photos that would jog his memory when he returned to the studio. He loved geological formations; the space, color, and textures of the desert challenged him as a painter. He also made frequent trips to Nevada for this same reason--the stark colors of the earth, the textural surfaces of the sand, and the play of light on the surfaces. Another artist who made a profound impression on Heaney was Kiuzo Furuya, whom he met in 1915. It was Furuya's devotion to nature that impressed Heaney, and brought him a renewed appreciation for the natural world.

Rachael Griffin, in her article "Heaney’s Landscape," summarized the essence of his work: "[his landscapes] capture the spirit of the scene ... they are landscapes of the mind or of the soul for each of us there are discoveries to be made in Heaney’s landscapes ... subtle, layered, deeper ... than their familiar topical features might suggest."

Artist biography reproduced with permission from the authors, Oregon Painters: the First Hundred Years (1859-1959), Ginny Allen and Jody Klevit.



Related People

Associate of: Darrel Austin (American, 1907-1994)

Associate of: Rockwell W. Carey (American, 1882-1954)

Associate of: Kiuzo Furuya (American, born Japan, 1888-1929)

Associate of: Bernard Geiser (American, 1887-1965)

Associate of: William F. McIlwraith (American, born Canada, 1867-1940)

Associate of: C.S. Price (American, 1874-1950)

Student of: Henry Frederick Wentz (American, 1876-1965)

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