Some very sad and shocking news came out of Boulder last week: Noted Colorado artist Jim Colbert was found dead in his Boulder home, an apparent suicide. Colbert, a contemporary realist painter with a political bent, had exhibited widely throughout the state since first coming to Colorado thirty years ago. At the time of his death, he was represented by the prestigious Robischon Gallery, which will presumably now be handling his estate.
Colbert was born in Washington State in 1946. He earned his BFA from the University of Washington; he moved to Colorado in 1977 and attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he received his MFA. While at CU, he studied with the famous Chuck Forsman, who became his mentor and lifelong friend. Like Forsman, Colbert tackled environmental issues. However, Colbert felt that he was speaking through his paintings about witnessing environmental destruction, whereas Forsman is an overt advocate for ecology.
Though there is some stylistic range in Colbert's oeuvre, his signature approach was hyper-realistic — but not photo-realist, as his paintings have lively and expressive surfaces. He was especially interested in the Western landscape and was particularly accomplished at selecting the right colors to deal with the effects of light and shadow. All of these characteristics are prominently displayed in "Glenwood Canyon" (pictured), which features a rugged mountain in the background framing construction in the foreground.
"Glenwood Canyon" and other Colbert paintings had already been slated for inclusion in a Colorado landscape show to be presented later this summer at Robischon and the Center for Visual Art. The exhibit coincides with the publication of Landscapes of Colorado, which I co-authored with Denver Art Museum curator Ann Daley. In preparation for my part, I spoke with Colbert a few months ago, and I found him to be sensitive and thoughtful. But considering what happened, perhaps he was too sensitive and too thoughtful.