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Russell FitzGerald

Alternate Names:
Vital Dates:
Born: 29 December 1932
Died: 30 March 1978


Russell Richard FitzGerald was an American artist born on December 29, 1932 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. 

FitzGerald studied at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art in the early 1950s and moved to North Beach, San Francisco in 1957 where he associated with the group of artists that defined the San Francisco Renaissance of the poetic avant-garde in the 50s and included poets Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer, and Robin Blaser. 

Although he identified primarily as a homosexual and was involved with many men, including Jack Spicer in the 1950s, FitzGerald eventually married Dora Dull, the partner of poet Harold Dull, in 1963. The two acted as parents to Dora’s twin girls (fathered by Harold Dull) until FitzGerald’s death in 1978.

FitzGerald was a Catholic and his art often incorporates religious iconography, reflecting his interests in alchemy, theology, spiritual life, and mythology. Strong accompanying themes of sexuality and anti-racism create an interesting tension in many of the works. He was greatly influenced by William Blake and often combined imagery with literary texts. As an illustrator as well as a painter, FitzGerald’s work appeared on the covers of science fiction books and magazines and on the cover of Dora’s translation of Rainer Maria Rilke's Das Marienleben (Life of the Virgin Mary), which appeared in The Capilano Review #26, 1983. 

FitzGerald also wrote prose and read widely, including writers Oscar Wilde, Virginia Wolfe, James Joyce, Shakespeare, Marcel Proust, Rainer Maria Rilke, Andre Gide, Walt Whitman, Dante, Baudelaire, Jean Genet, Samuel Beckett, Graham Greene, Jean Cocteau, Lorca, Thomas Merton, and Margaret Lawrence. 

FitzGerald was financially supported by Dora as he worked on his art but his life and work were adversely affected by alcohol addiction and periods of drug abuse. During the 1960s FitzGerald lived in New York City until 1970 when he, Dora and the twins moved to Vancouver in an effort to end his heroin addiction. Despite many attempts to give up drinking, by the time of his death FitzGerald’s marriage was failing and he was in ill health with a severely damaged liver.

Despite his efforts, FitzGerald did not enter the mainstream art world in San Francisco or New York. He remains virtually unknown outside of a few select circles and his visionary, anti-modernist work is not part of any artistic canon. 

FitzGerald’s final journal entry tells of a sudden trip from San Francisco to Vancouver and an ensuing “alcoholic fugue.” One month later he died at the age of 46 on March 30, 1978.

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