John Urbain, Artist 

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Born in Brussels, Belgium in 1920, John Urbain came to the United States with his parents at the age of two. The family settled in Detroit. Although working class and not well-to-do, it was a household in which art, music and intellectual pursuits were appreciated and encouraged. John's artistic talent was recognized at an early age and, lacking the funds for art school, his father posed for drawing classes so that John could participate. His father also arranged for him to attend Cass Technical School in Detroit, where he continued his focus on art.

In 1940, he was drafted into the army and went to Fort Custer in Battle Creek, Michigan. His abilities were qucikly recognized and he was assigned to the Army Illustrators. He was soon commissioned to paint a large mural for the theater.  

Thanks to the G.I. Bill, John was able to continue his studies at Black Mountain College*, an innovative and well respected art school in North Carolina. Here he studied with Josef Albers, M.C. Richards and Max Dehn. Here also, he met Elaine Schmidt.

He and Elaine married and shortly thereafter, moved to Paris where John  continued his studies of art at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere and the Academie Julien. In Paris,  they immersed themselves in the bohemian lifestyle, re-experiencing the old world values of his childhood.

Upon their return to the United States in 1953, John became Art Director for Philip Morris Company and helped them to acquire an outstanding and diverse art collection that included many of his own works.  John continued his work with Philip Morris until his retirement.

During his long career as an artist, his works have been included  in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the National Museum of Art, the Detroit, Houston and North Carolina Museums of Art, and numerous private collections and galleries in the United States and abroad. 


May 23, 1920–April 8, 2009

Born Brussels, Belgium, 1920

Detroit, Michigan, 1922–1941

U.S. Army, 1941–1945

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1947–1950

Paris, France, 1950–1952

New York, New York, 1953–2008


Academie de la Grand Chaumier, Paris, France

Academie Julien, Paris, France

Black Mountain College, Black Mountain, North Carolina

with professor Josef Albers

U.S. Army, Fort Custer Army Group, Battle Creek, Michigan

Cass Technical School, Detroit, Michigan

Society of Arts and Crafts, Cranbrook School, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan


2013 Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, Asheville, NC  

2012 Yvette Torres Fine Art, Solo Exhibition, Rockland, ME

2009 Gallery 170, Solo Exhibition, Damariscotta Mills, ME

2008 Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, Asheville, NC

2007 Gallery 170, Black Mountain College Exhibit, Damariscotta, ME

2004 Weiss Pollack Galleries, New York, NY

2003 Mixed Media Gallery, Block Island, RI

2002 Mixed Media Gallery, Block Island, RI 

2001 Mixed Media Gallery, Block Island, RI

1995 Retrospective, Hurlbutt Gallery, Greenwich, CT

1993, 1994 & 1995 Sea Breeze Gallery, Block Island, RI

1992 Station Gallery, Katonah, NY

1991 Anita Shapolsky Gallery, New York, NY

1990 Albright Knox Museum, New York, NY

1989 & 1990 Square one Gallery, Block Island, RI

1988 Bard College, New York, NY

1987 Albright Knox Museum, Buffalo, NY

1986 Robeson Center Gallery, Rutgers University, NJ

1985 Hudson Center Gallery, New York, NY 

1982 Impressions Gallery, New York, NY

1978 Barbara Fieldler Gallery, Washington DC

1977 Martha Jackson Gallery New York, NY 

1971 Rizzoli Gallery, New York, NY

1971 Adam Gallery, New York, NY

1971 Rizzoli Gallery, New York, NY

1969 Peridot Gallery, New York, NY

1968 Gotham Book Mart, New York, NY

1967 Weyhe Gallery, New York, NY

1965 Grippi Gallery, New York, NY

1952 Raymond Duncan, Paris, France


Owens Corning, New York, NY, Silk Screen Prints

Neiman Marcus, Dallas, Texas Mural of Colored Glass

International Airport Hotel, JFK Airport, New York, NY, Mural of Colored Glass

Mid City Club, Drake Hotel, Philadelphia, PA, Colored Glass Panels

University of Louisville Library, Louisville, Kentucky, Stained Glass Panel

American President Lines, CA, Colored Glass Mural

Park West Apartments, New York, NY, Mosaic Mural


Museum of Modern Art, NYC, NY

Brooklyn Museum of Art, NY, NY

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Detroit Museum of Art, MI

Houston Art Museum, Texas

North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC

Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, Asheville, NC

The Asheville Art Museum, NC

The Albright Knox Museum, Buffalo, NY

Galerie Pepe Rebollo, Zaragosa, Spain

Numerous private and corporate collections in the United States and abroad.


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