Butler acquires photorealistic works

Two massive photorealist paintings by Peter Maier that had been on loan to the Butler Institute of American Art now are part of the permanent collection.

“Horse-Power (Ben),” a 9-foot-by-11.5-foot painting of a Clydesdale horse, and a 7-foot-by-18-foot painting of Jeff Gordon’s race car were acquired for an undisclosed price.

The Clydesdale has been on display at the museum since last June, and the race car has been in the Butler’s Donnell Sports Gallery since 2011.

Butler Director Louis Zona said, “We are honored to have acquired these two monumental works.”

Maier, who was a senior designer for General Motors and was involved in a number of the car manufacturers’ classic designs, left GM in 1980 to focus full-time on art, and he creates his large photorealist paintings using special paints developed by Dupont.

“We’ve had the Jeff Gordon car for some time,” Zona said. “It was one of Peter Maier’s earliest works, one of his best-known works. A new book on photorealism pictures Pete next to our car.”

The Clydesdale was brought in last year to hang in place of “Americans: Youngstown, Ohio,” a giant painting by Alfred Leslie that had been on loan to the Butler since it was painted there during a residency by the artist in 1979. The artist asked for it back last year.

“When we lost the Alfred Leslie painting, it became pretty clear we won’t get it back, and we wanted something special there,” Zona said. “The community was used to seeing that great Leslie painting. I thought about Peter Maier, and he was creating a life-size Clydesdale horse. Wouldn’t that be terrific to put that on the wall?”

The painting, which is done on aluminum and weighs 1,000 pounds, has become a popular attraction with museum visitors, and Zona said they began talks with the artist about acquiring it.

“He was enthusiastic about the possibility of it remaining at the Butler,” Zona said. “He offered finally to throw in the car, and it was just too good to pass up. We approached the trustees and decided to go for it. We couldn’t be happier.”

Funds specifically designated for acquisitions were used for the purchase, he said.

Since both works already are on display, an ”unveiling” isn’t planned, but the Butler is looking for ways to mark the occasion.

“I’d like to do something, have Peter Maier come in and let us celebrate with the artist,” Zona said. “What I would like to do, since Pete is so good with painting animals, is borrow two or three of his other animal and bird paintings and show them on the wall where the Clydesdale is.”