William Christenberry

born Tuscaloosa, AL 1936-died Washington, DC 2016
Media - portrait_image_113287.jpg - 90203
Also known as
  • William A. Christenberry, Jr.
  • Bill Christenberry
  • William Andrew Christenberry
Tuscaloosa, Alabama, United States
Washington, District of Columbia, United States
  • American

Born in Alabama. An artist of national acclaim, equally known for his photographs of the South and his disturbing sculptural pieces.

Nora Panzer, ed. Celebrate America in Poetry and Art (New York and Washington, D.C.: Hyperion Paperbacks for Children in association with the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1994)

Luce Artist Biography

As a young man, William Christenberry often traveled the back roads of the South with his father. He studied painting as a graduate student at the University of Alabama until he discovered James Agee’s book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Christenberry was moved when he realized that the tenant farmers in Walker Evans’s photographs were people he remembered from growing up near Hale County, Alabama. He returned to the places in Evans’s photographs and took his own pictures with a Brownie camera. Although Christenberry creates many different kinds of art, ranging from photographs to drawings to sculptures, his experiences growing up in the South serve as the subjects for most of his artwork.



A painting of a white church in the woods
Passing Time: The Art of William Christenberry
June 30, 2006July 7, 2007
William Christenberry (b. 1936) looks for the spirit of Southern culture in the landscape and architecture of rural Alabama. Drawing upon his formal training, family traditions and a lasting relationship with his native home in Hale County, Christenberry has spent the last 50 years creating a remarkable body of work that is an exploration of all aspects of life and experience. This installation—not a retrospective, but a survey of past and present work, some seen here for the first time—includes more than 60 of Christenberry's photographs, drawings, paintings, sculptures and building constructions. Though his work is inspired by the American South, Christenberry's overall themes are universal, touching on family, culture, nature and the spiritual. His artworks are poetic assessments of a sense of place, landscape, aging, memory and the passing of time. Christenberry, who teaches at the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, selected the works included; the exhibition complements the adjoining installation of folk art, also selected by Christenberry, from the museum's permanent collection.