Discovering Joe Downing

Discovery is the spice of life when we encounter something or someone unexpected. In that discovery, we learn something new about ourselves or the world through the heart and soul of another as I did at the Downing Museum harbored in the Baker Arboretum in Bowling Green, KY.

“Joe Downing is one of only three Americans whose work is exhibited at the Louvre Museum, in Paris, France. “ Born in Horse Cave, Kentucky, Joe Downing grew up on a farm. His parents hoped he would become an optometrist. He graduated at the top of his high school class, then joined his peers to serve in Europe during WWII. He visited Paris at the end of the war, then returned home to finish college. But optometry would not be his path. Soon after graduation he returned to Paris and France where he remained for the rest of his life.

The Downing Museum holds most of the artist’s greatest works– a continuum that shows his evolution as a artist. When he first moved to Paris and worked as a secretary at a law firm to support his art, Joe could not afford expensive paints. He improvised with paper, crayons and staples–accessible to him at his job — to create mixed media art. That is how he began.


For most of his early years he lived and worked in Paris but at one point he and a fellow artist bought a house in Menerbes .  The ancient village in Provence gave him a great sense of peace he recalled to friends and family. The space with its adjoining garden created the inspiration for his major works of art. The Downing Museum is a part of the Baker Arboretum, managed by Western Kentucky University. It is a lovely place, fitting to house the works of a man whose eye for color, shape, line, and texture merged into works that give one peace when gazing upon them.

Painted on barn doors from French farmhouse, 200 + years old.

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