The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

May 6, 2013

AUDIO: Charles Banks Wilson remembered as storyteller in art

MIAMI, Okla. — “Storyteller” and “poet” were some of the words sources used Monday to describe famed Oklahoma artist Charles Banks Wilson.

Funeral services for Wilson, 94, will take place at 9:30 a.m. today at the First Presbyterian Church of Miami. He died Thursday at Rogers, Ark.

Wilson was born Aug. 6, 1918, in Springdale, Ark., and moved to Miami with his parents when he was young. He graduated in 1936 from Miami High School.

In an Aug. 10, 2010, interview conducted for Oklahoma Voices, part of Oklahoma State University’s Oral History project, he said he was president of his high school class.

“I don’t think I was very well-liked, but people thought I was pretty smart,” Wilson said of the post.

He received further art education at the Art Institute of Chicago, beginning in 1937.

He is known for his portraits of Oklahoma figures, including Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe, folk singer Woody Guthrie and humorist Will Rogers. The latter painting is in the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

NATIVE AMERICANS

He also is known for his paintings and drawings of Native Americans. They include a portrait of Sequoyah at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Wilson also painted the murals at the Capitol.

He began drawing American Indians upon his return to Miami. He said they were often at the bus station, near his studio. He said in the Oklahoma Voices interview that he thought they were interesting people.

In an interview published in the June 22, 1980, Joplin Globe, Wilson described why he had an easier time among Native Americans than a photographer would, and achieved a better result.

“I’ve been able to go into places with a pencil and paper where an Indian would never allow a camera,” he said. “While drawing the picture, I have the advantage of the Indian’s philosophy and his comments. This is a very personal experience for me. A photographer misses this experience.”

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