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A painter of modernist portraits, he has created many paintings that appeared on the cover of "Time" magazine and has written extensively on his methods of using tempera. He has frequently been called an American Surrealist or Magic Realist and uses symbolism extensively. Sometimes over their hearts, his portrait figures have targets, symbolizing the horrors and violence of war.
He was born in New York City, attended Wesleyan University and, in the 1940s, the Yale School of Fine Arts where he received his B.A. in 1947 and later a B.F.A. He also studied at the Art Students League of New York with Victoria Huntley, Reginald Marsh and Kenneth Hayes Miller.
He learned the technique of tempera painting from Lewis York, a protege of Daniel Thompson, Jr. who wrote the textbook for the tempera class at the Yale School of Fine Art. In 1950, Vickrey worked with Josef Albers at Yale.
Between 1952 and 1963, Vickrey was in nine annual exhibitions of the Whitney Museum and from 1957 to 1968, had 78 works published on "Time" magazine covers.
Very few artists have ever attained Robert Vickrey's level of expertise in the egg tempera medium. For nearly six decades he has re-written the various aspects of mysterious type of painting. Having authored two books on the subject, he is easily the most respected artist in contemporary American art in this medium.
his dedication to detail and labor intensive process produces a smaller number of works each year. Plans for a monograph about Vickrey are nearly concluded. Dr. Philip Eliasoph of Faifield University in Connecticut has been working on a nearly 50,000 word text for several years, which will be released in the spring of 2009. Dr. Eliasoph is an expert on Italian Renaissance painting and in particular its influences on egg tempera painters of the late 20th century. Painting included in the eighty museum collections will be illustrated plus others from private collections.