Ben Shute was an artist, teacher, arts advocate, and cofounder of the Atlanta College of Art. In recognition of his early contributions to one of Atlanta’s most prominent art institutions, a scholarship to the college was established in Shute’s honor in 1984.

Night Carnival (1940)
Night Carnival (1940)

Courtesy of Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; Gift of Betty Plummer Potts Woodruff GMOA 2004.7

Ben Edgar Shute was born on July 13, 1905, in Altoona, Wisconsin, to Joanna and Edgar Shute. He received his formal art education from 1922 to 1928 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. While there he studied with Allen Philbrick and George Oberteuffer and lived in what was known as the “boys dormitory,” a barn within the Midway Studio complex of the well-known sculptor Lorado Taft.

From Chicago, Shute set out for Atlanta in 1928 to take a six-week teaching job at the newly established High Museum School of Art. This temporary assignment, however, lasted for the better part of six decades, as Shute dedicated himself, with the help of a small but eager faculty, to developing a dynamic curriculum in both fine arts and commercial art and advertising. His efforts resulted in a nationally accredited art school that eventually became a separate entity from the High Museum of Art.

Otis with Bible (1940)
Otis with Bible (1940)

Courtesy of Georgia Musuem of Art, University of Georgia; Gift of Betty Plummer Potts Woodruff GMOA 2004.6

Shute established a fine reputation as a portrait artist during his time in Atlanta, but his true strength is evident in the many paintings he did to document his travels. In 1948 he received the first of two Carnegie travel grants, which took him and his first wife, artist Nell Choate Shute (a distant relative of artist Nell Choate Jones), to Mexico. What makes his work memorable is the masterful way he captures the specific character of a place, whether a Georgia setting like the beach at St. Simons Island, or the more exotic settings of Italy or Portugal. In the early 1950s Shute began his annual visits to coastal Maine, where he focused on painting fishing boats, clapboard houses, towering tamarack trees, and massive rock quarries, often using a shifting cubist perspective. His preferred medium was a combination of ink, watercolor, and casein (a milk glue), although he also excelled in oil and pastel and took up metal welding late in his career.

Ostia, Italy (1962)
Ostia, Italy (1962)

Courtesy of Betty Plummer Woodruff Collection

In 1945 Shute established the Southeastern Annual Exhibition, which he chaired until 1961. A juried competition that attracted more than 2,000 entries from 9 southern states, the exhibition became one of the most important in the Southeast. Shute was awarded the Governor’s Award in the Arts for the state of Georgia in 1985. His work has been included in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; and the Brooklyn Museum in Brooklyn, New York. Regionally his work has been exhibited and collected by both private collectors and such public institutions as the High Museum and the Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina. In 1965 and 1969 he and his second wife, artist Keenan Wade Ranson Shute, were given joint exhibitions at the Columbus Museum in Columbus.

Deserted House (1965)
Deserted House (1965)

Courtesy of Betty Plummer Woodruff Collection

Shute died in Atlanta on July 15, 1986. His legacy as a teacher and an artist was to make art and culture an important part of Georgia’s heritage. In 2002-3 the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens toured a retrospective exhibition of the artist throughout the state.

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Ostia, Italy (1962)

Ostia, Italy (1962)

Ben Shute, a prominent Atlanta artist, is well known for his landscape portraits of such diverse locales as Mexico, Italy, and the Georgia coast. Ostia, Italy (1962), casein and ink on paper.

Courtesy of Betty Plummer Woodruff Collection

Night Carnival (1940)

Night Carnival (1940)

Acclaimed artist Ben Shute, a cofounder of the Atlanta College of Art, lived in Atlanta from 1928 until his death in 1986. His 1940 work Night Carnival, Franklin, N.C., casein and ink on paper, is housed in the permanent collection of the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens.

Courtesy of Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; Gift of Betty Plummer Potts Woodruff GMOA 2004.7

Otis with Bible (1940)

Otis with Bible (1940)

Acclaimed artist Ben Shute, a Wisconsin native, lived for the majority of his career in Atlanta, where he earned a reputation as an accomplished portrait artist. His Otis with Bible, charcoal on paper, was completed in 1940.

Courtesy of Georgia Musuem of Art, University of Georgia; Gift of Betty Plummer Potts Woodruff GMOA 2004.6

Deserted House (1965)

Deserted House (1965)

Beginning in the early 1950s, Atlanta artist Ben Shute traveled to coastal Maine, where he painted elements of the landscape using a shifting cubist perspective. Deserted House, Port Clyde, Maine (1965), casein and ink on paper.

Courtesy of Betty Plummer Woodruff Collection