Monday, May 05, 2008

Frank Reilly: "A no nonsense guy... a warm hearted mentor"

Last week's look at Ken Riley resulted in some mention of "The Riley Method" and "The Riley Colour Wheel" - things I couldn't find any reference to in any of my research on the artist. Then came the suggestion that people were thinking not of Ken Riley but Frank Reilly.

Luckily for us, long time TI list member Tom Palmer was a student at Frank Reilly's art school in New York in the 1960's. When I asked Tom about "The Reilly Method", he sent the following:

"The Reilly Method. The word "method" has become a curse in some ways. People, artists really, see it as some mathematical mumbo-jumbo and silly, but it was the core of Frank Reilly's genius of teaching the art of painting and in some way, drawing.

The basis of the painting method was the Munsell System of identifying Color, Hue, Value, Chroma, and once understood, took the mystery out of painting and making pictures. It took me some time to understand it all, I was too young to absorb it at first, and after one of Reilly's painting lectures the light bulb in my head went on and I was ecstatic, finally understanding the procedure. Ran up to Frank Reilly to tell him of my revelation and he just smiled saying, "You weren't ready until now". How true, it's simple in retrospect, but it's the concept of color that eludes you, once you get that it all falls into place."

Tom sent more - much more! Enough to fill a week of posts on the artist and his school, including a link to another Reilly art school alumnus, Doug Higgins, who has created an unbelievable resource for anyone interested in learning about Frank Reilly, his school and his teaching methods.

Doug has also published a very affordable book that describes in detail the Frank Reilly Method, available at (click on the 'Search' tab at top right, type in "Doug Higgins", and his book will come up on the screen and you can order).

Tom also wrote, "As you can see by the photo of him, Frank Reilly looked like a NYC policeman, no nonsense guy who expected you to follow the rules, but as I found out later, a warm hearted mentor, who patiently helped you out when you needed it."

"I think that's why all who knew him will cherish the memories."

My thanks to Tom Palmer for providing all the material for this week's topic.

My Frank Reilly Flickr set.


  1. I can't wait to read your posts this week. What a great teacher. Reilly reportedly once said: "I can teach a wooden indian to paint." There've been several books by former students, and I'd be interested to hear opinions on which is the best rendering of his teaching. He was a student of Dean Cornwell, and shot a series of films of his contemporaries in the late 1940s called "Artists at Work" (a copy of the film is now in the collection of the Society of Illustrators). I hope you can talk more about how those films came about.

  2. Anonymous12:28 PM

    Robert Maguire, Roger Kastel, James Bama, Fred Fixler were just a few who came out of Reilly's packed studio classes to have distinguished careers. Jack Faragasso picked up the mantle of teaching the Reilly Method at the Art Students League to a whole new generation of artists.

  3. I got my Reilly's mixed up...thanks for following up Ken with Frank...

    Now about his Reilly Palette?


  4. Anonymous7:13 AM

    I had a talk some years ago with one of Reilly's last class monitors who'd told me that the last of the original films Reilly shot of Cornwell actually painting was destroyed in a flood in his cellar where they had been storred . Please tell me that I'm mistaken and that some of those films did , indeed survive?