Kermit Oliver

(American, b. 1943)

Study for Empty Shed (Feed Pail), c. 1965

Watercolor on paper; 23 x 17 inches
Gift of Linda and William Reaves, The Linda and William Reaves Collection of Texas Art at UHV, 2023

Kermit Oliver’s Study for Empty Shed (Feed Pail), executed while the artist was completing his undergraduate education at Texas Southern University, shows a man, a farmer, standing confidently with one hand on his hip. He dons a brimmed hat and faces the viewer directly. An empty feed pail rests on the ground at his feet. Incorporating the color of the paper in his rendering, Oliver handles light and shadow with precision and efficiency. This study functions as an unidealized portrait, as there are clues in the composition as to the nameless figure’s identity and profession. This study lacks explicit reference to symbolism and mythology, making it a rarity in Oliver’s oeuvre. Rather than portraying a heightened reality imbued with meaning and mystique, with Study for Empty Shed (Feed Pail), Oliver gifts the viewer a realist work: direct, honest to nature, and mundane.

Kermit Oliver was born in Refugio, Texas in 1943. After graduating high school, Oliver attended Texas Southern University in Houston where he studied under Dr. John T. Biggers. In 1966, he spent the summer at Rice University studying with Elaine de Kooning. He graduated in 1967 with a composite degree in art and arts education. While working as an artist, Oliver was a full-time employee for the US Postal Service. He retired from his job as a mail sorter in 2013. Oliver is best known today for his collaborations with Hermès. He is the only American artist to design for the French fashion house. Oliver has exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Blaffer Gallery, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. His art now belongs in the collections of the El Paso Museum, the Dallas Museum of Art, the House of Hermès, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and the Art Museum of Southeast Texas.


University of Houston-Victoria