photo by David Wright
Born in 1947 in Newtown, Pennsylvania, Alan Magee attended art school in Philadelphia and, in 1969, began working as an editorial and book illustrator in New York. Among his regular clients were Time, Atlantic, Playboy, New York Magazine, The New York Times, and Simon & Schuster, Ballantine, Avon, and Bantam Books. During the 1970s Magee produced paintings for the covers of books by Graham Greene, Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, John Irving, Henry Miller, Edward Abbey, Yasunari Kawabata, Yukio Mishima, Stanley Elkin, John Neihardt, Ken Kesey, Russell Hoban, Agatha Christie, Patrick White, Arkady and Boris Strugatski, and others.
His illustrations received numerous awards including an Americanl Book Award in 1982, Awards of Excellence from Communication Arts magazine and from the Society of Illustrators, Playboy magazine’s Annual Editorial Award, and awards from the Art Directors Clubs of Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.
In the late 1970s Magee began to concentrate on his personal paintings and in 1980 presented his first solo exhibition at Staempfli Gallery in New York. Since that time, he has had annual one-person shows throughout the United States and Europe. In 1991 a ten-year survey, Alan Magee 1981-1991, traveled to four US museums. Archive, an exhibition of Magee’s black and white monotypes opened at the Berliner Philharmonie in November 2000 and traveled to the Portland Museum of Art. An Alan Magee Retrospective exhibition opened at the James A. Michener Art Museum in 2003; the Farnsworth Art Museum, 2004; and the Frye Art Museum, Seattle, in 2005.
Books of Alan Magee’s paintings include, Stones and Other Works, published by Harry N. Abrams in 1986, Alan Magee 1981-1991, published by the Farnsworth Art Museum in 1991, and Archive, Alan Magee Monotypes, published by Darkwood Press and Spectrum Concerts Berlin in 2000. Alan Magee: Paintings, Sculpture, Graphics, a major book of the artist’s work, was released in October 2003. Resistance, by Barry Lopez, with monotypes by Alan Magee, was published by Knopf in 2004.
Magee’s short films address social and political issues. Based on his original songs, the films include Gun Shop, 2013, Party Line, 2024, and Singing in the Dark Times, 2020.
Magee has received awards for his painting from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and the National Academy of Design. Several documentary films have been made about his work including the Maine PBS production, Alan Magee, Visions of Darkness and Light, and Alan Magee, Maine Master by the Union of Maine Visual Artists. Alan Magee: art is not a solace, a feature documentary about the artist’s work, was released in September 2019 at (CIFF), the Camden International Film Festival.
Magee’s works can be seen in many public collections including The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Art Institute of Chicago, The National Portrait Gallery, the US Capitol, the Portland Museum of Art, The Delaware Art Museum, the Farnsworth Art Museum, and the Columbus Museum of Art.