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Russell T. Gordon

by Synatra Smith, Ph.D. on 2022-07-28T12:00:00-04:00 in Black Artists | 0 Comments

African American artist and educator Russell T. Gordon was born July 3, 1936, in Philadelphia and grew up four blocks away from Temple University, which he later attended on a basketball scholarship. While there, he switched his major from mathematics to art during his junior year and graduated with a BFA in 1962. At that time, he began playing semiprofessional and professional basketball with teams near Philadelphia and Chicago on the weekends and taught English and art as a substitute teacher during the week. While teaching, he met and developed a friendship with the African American artist Raymond Saunders. Gordon was inspired by the jazz musician Thelonious Monk, similar to African American photographer Gerald Cyrus who was influenced by jazz and blues artists. Gordon explains, “[Monk] became my mentor. His music, his mind, his power and presence (physicality), his humor, sensitivity, technical skill and invention all play a major role in how I approach being an artist.”[1]

Gordon solicited printmaking help from the Philadelphia Print Club, and its member Sam Maiden allowed him to use his studio for six months to develop his portfolio of drawings and prints. He attended the Haystack School of Fine Arts in Deer Isle, Maine, the following summer and was offered a full scholarship with a teaching assistantship from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He graduated with an MS in 1966 and an MFA in 1967 and was hired at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Gordon was a visiting lecturer at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1969–70. That same year, he was offered a job at the University of California, Berkeley, to teach painting, printmaking, and graduate seminars as an assistant professor. He visited Denmark through a grant from the American-Scandinavian Foundation and then went back to California to teach as an associate professor at Mills College in Oakland in 1974–75. At this time he was also a visiting professor at Concordia University in Montreal. He joined the faculty there as an associate professor in 1975 and stayed until his retirement in 1998. Gordon was an artist-in-residence at 3 EP Press in Palo Alto, California, in 1981, the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon in 1984, Lakeside Studio in Michigan in 1986 and 1988, and East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, in 1989. Gordon died in Montreal in November 2013 from cancer.

PMA Collection



[1] Gordon and Forget 2010, 21.



Concordia University News. 2013. “In Memoriam: Russell T. Gordon, 1936–2013.” Concordia University (website), December 17, 2013. Accessed May 10, 2022.

Black Art Story. n.d. “Profile: Russell T. Gordon (1936–2013).” Black Art Story. Accessed May 10, 2022.


Gordon, Russell T., and Maurice Forget. 2010. Russell T. Gordon: Over Easy. Exh. cat. Montreal: Visual Arts Centre, McClure Gallery. 

MacDowell. n.d. “Russell T. Gordon.” MacDowell. Accessed May 10, 2022.

New York Times. 2013. “Russell Gordon Obituary.” New York Times, December 15, 2013. 

Riggs, Thomas, ed. 1997. “Gordon, Russell: American Painter and Printmaker.” In St. James Guide to Black Artists, 215–18. Detroit: St. James Press.

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