A man who was thoroughly grounded on the Colorado Plateau, Stanton Earl Englehart spent a lifetime painting the skies that stretch forever, rugged Rocky Mountains and arid landscapes of the Southwest.The artist and Fort Lewis College professor emeritus died Wednesday from complications of Alzheimer's disease at his home. He was 78.
"To survey the descriptors written about him reveals a measure of the man," Joel Jones, a former president of FLC wrote about his colleague and friend in the foreword to the book Stanton Englehart: A Life on Canvas, "compassionate, inspirational, visionary, gifted, generous, vibrant, joyful, humble, learned, passionate, always in touch with the magic and beauty of nature; a person of insightful intelligence and absolute integrity, informed intuition and disciplined commitment to his work-play; and most simply, always a great hugger and good listener, a gentle soul, a gentleman to the core."
Englehart and his work was featured in Southwest Art in an article titled "Time Encounters Space" in 1985.
In addition to more than 30 consecutive solo shows at FLC, his work was the subject of solo exhibits at his alma mater, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Mile High Center in Denver, the Kansas Gallery of Fine Arts in Topeka, the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center in Pueblo and the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores. Two retrospective shows have been held, one at the Durango Arts Center and "Seasons on the Plateau" at the Anasazi Heritage Center. In 2006, he and his wife, Pat, were named the first ever "Sweethearts of the Arts," by the DAC.
As much as he is known for his body of work created over 50 years, with paintings in collections around the world, Englehart is known for his teaching. He founded the Art Department at Fort Lewis College in 1961, where he was the sole professor in the discipline, responsible for teaching all fine-art media, history and theory for several years.
"He was so inspiring because he was the one of those rare people who could talk deeply about art," said artist and gallery owner Karyn Gabaldon. "I would take his philosophy class over and over again."
In February, she painted a picture she called "For the Man who Taught Me to Ask Why," which she dedicated to the professor she studied with for 4½ years.
During his time at the college, Englehart was named Teacher of the Year several times.
Englehart began his life on a farm outside of Lewis, where his grandparents had homesteaded. He was born in Cortez to Carl Jacob and Ruth Porter Englehart on March 26, 1931. His mother encouraged him to paint and draw.
"My mother had a powerful sense of beauty," he said when Jules Masterjohn was interviewing him for the book. "I would wake up hearing her play the piano."
After attending Lewis Elementary and Garret Ridge High schools, he graduated from Cortez High School, where he met his future wife, Patsy Ruth Powell. The couple married on April 28, 1949, in Tierra Amarilla, N.M.
Except for brief stints to get his bachelor's and master's degrees from CU, Englehart spent his entire life in Southwest Colorado.
He was always generous to local organizations, donating paintings for fundraisers or buildings and agreeing to speak to Leadership La Plata classes for more than a decade. He donated a collection of 18 paintings to the Community Concert Hall when it opened.
"The folks at Toh-Atin Gallery always told him that if he'd stop giving paintings away, they might be able to sell a few," his wife said.
Englehart touched the lives of everyone who met him.
"I see the world differently," said Rich Fletcher, who produced the book's companion DVD in 2007. "I see a 'Stanton' sky, a 'Stanton' landscape. He was a passionate and compassionate man, and I feel so blessed to have been in his presence while he was painting and seeing him work."
In addition to his art and teaching, Englehart was a classic fly-fisherman, tying his own flies, building his own rods and teaching his grandsons the sport. He also cycled thousands of miles.
"He really loved being alive," Masterjohn said. "He was an athlete, a citizen, a teacher, a learner, an amazing fly-fisherman - a Renaissance man. He really was an example of someone who was all there."