Detroit News Art Critic Reviews Bill Girard (1967)

Master of Mud (aka artist) and former Center for Creative Studies (CCS), Detroit,  professor of art, Bill (William J.) Girard Jr., passed away in 2011. The website created to honor him is found at


This is the first high profile review of Bill (William J.) Girard's art that I am aware of.  The published article appears directly below. The text of the article appears below that. 

Publication: The Detroit News. 
Title: Exploring the World of a Young Eccentric
Author: Joy Hakanson. 
Date: Sunday, July 30, 1967. 

The occasion: Girard's inclusion in the Butler Art Institute's mid-year art exhibit and his addition to the teaching corps of the Detroit Society of Arts & Crafts.

In retrospect, her closing paragraph seems particularly prescient.

"Whether one likes 

Girard's kind of art or loathes it,

he is someone to respect 

in a world that fights for freedom 

but humiliates its prophets."


Headline: Exploring the World of a Young Eccentric




Detroit New« Art Critic

Eccentric may seem a dubious name for a gifted young artist. But it fits Bill Girard, a Detroiter who belongs to the tradition of Hieronymus Bosch, Henry Fuseli and more recently Louis Eilshemius and Joseph Cornell.

Words cannot be minced. An eccentric is an eccentric. His work must be regarded in that light or it becomes open to criticism for all the wrong reasons.

At 28, Girard is a largely self-taught artist, who turns from drawing to painting to sculpture with equal ease. He seldom has exhibited, is unknown outside a devoted cult of collectors and friends.

HE IS SHOWING one painting now at the Butler Art Institute’s annual mid-year exhibit. He has signed on as an instructor for the forthcoming season at the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts.

He lives with his wife and two young children on the edge of Oakland University’s campus.

Recently there ha's been a revival in interest in the eccentric and his art. Last season New York galleries played up such bizarre draftsmen as John Graham and Aubrey Beardsley.

THE L T Art News Annual devoted a whole issue to “The Grand Eccentrics.” By placing some splendid misfits in context, the work of Flemish Bosch, the English William Blake, the French Gustave Moreau and contemporary Americans Ivan Albright, Cornell and Lucas Samaras suddenly took on fresh presence.

Seeing “The Grand Eccentrics” side by side is to be aware of the thread that binds together Bosch’s demons, the obsessed foliage of Hercules Seghers, Blake’s winged creatures, Henry Fuseli’s nightmares and Odilon Redon’s exquisitely colored visions.

This same thread reaches to Bill Girard. The trouble is that a casual observer looking at his unearthly landscapes, dragons, warlocks, faintly evil princesses, leering satyrs may write them off as imitation Bosch or Beardsley.

He is a pleasant, unassuming man, who admits candidly that “I think in pictures but can’t explain them’ and that when it comes to the current art scene “I’m really out of it.”

Why eccentric? What does the word mean in art?

First, eccentric art by its nature is impossible to define. It is a relative term because all exceptional creative work stands apart from the mainstream.

THERE ARE SIGNS, how- ever, to be observed. The eccentric explores a psychic landscape, one that he projects without fear of failure and without regard to other artists’ rules, which don’t apply to him anyway.

The eccentric will dare anything and risk everything to give form to his vision. He piles detail upon detail, image upon image shifting his scale and perspective to suit his whim.

He has, in Girard's words, "a fear of negative spaces” and an eye that stores with the instinct of a pack-rat “all the cloud formations, foliage patterns, human postures” that he may need at some future time.

THIS JUDGMENT js unfair. While competent craftsman could imitate the subjects and styles of the eccentrics, it takes a Girard to project and sustain the psychic mood.

Now as always, eccentric art is not everyone’s dish. It defies labeling, is uncomfortable and demanding.

One does riot just decide to bat off a primeval forest or prehistoric beasts or flowers exuding impending calamity with the power to jolt the viewer. This takes a special kind of impulse and vision that cannot be taught or learned.

TO DATE, one of Girard's most impressive accomplishments is a set of illustrations he did for J. R. R. Tolkien's “The Lord of the Rings,’* a book cherished by the Hippies.

Girard wasn't aware the book was fashionable and said he knew less about the Hippies and their philosophy. He heard Tolkien read on the radio and began drawing from the word pictures simply because they struck a response in him.

Whether one likes Girard’s kind of art or loathes it, he is someone to respect in a world that fights for freedom but humiliates its prophets.


For some insights into some of the heaping helpings of humiliation Bill swallowed, peruse my previous blog post, Girard? Girard Who? 


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