June 8, 1940 - February 5, 2011
Bill Girard circa 1981
Professor of Art William Girard may be destined to be one of the greatest unknown fine artists ever to be born and die in metro Detroit.
Bill never wanted for buyers. They lined up to obtain his work. Galleries weren't his thing. Oh sure, he exhibited from time to time. But given the repressive nature of the art market and the confounding attitudes and behaviors of the art sales professionals who passed as experts, Bill largely eschewed the traditional art market.
So Bill is largely unknown ... except to afficianados, friends, former students and art enthusiasts of exceptional taste and insight.
Now the first generation of Bill's collectors, too, are passing on. His work is slowly, and largely for the first time, finding its way to market via estate sales and auction houses. What will be its reception?
I can't say with certainty. I do know that the single largest collection of Girards I know of - the Abramson collection, in Farmington Hills, Michigan - was sold over a several month period in 2016, via an estate sale. No auction house would accept the work.
A few of those fortunate enough to obtain some of the work thus released have begun to seek opportunities to increase awareness of Girard's work.
They - we - believe that the very soul of the art spirit inhabits nearly every oil painting, drawing, bronze, terra cotta, watercolor and sketch that Girard produced. Some pieces shine brighter than others. But individually and as a whole, his body of work retains its ability to spell bind.
The examples captured in these website pages are only a small portion of the astonishingly lovely gift that Bill left us all.
During much of his own lifetime, Bill was held to be slavish adherent of styles clearly archaic. Lesser practitioners failed to see that this entirely self-taught student of the masters had redefined their strictures and their story lines for his own purposes. Oh sure, he borrowed from the Etruscans, the Egyptians, the Italian Renaissance, the Preraphaelites and the abstract expressionists, but even so, a Bill Girard is nearly always a thing apart.
He was a much loved - and just as frequently reviled - Professor of Art at the Center for Creative Studies (now the College for Creative Studies) in Detroit, Michigan, where he taught for 30 years.
Bill swam against the art world tide. An autodidact with all of one semester's worth of post-secondary education, he simply refused to abandon his particular star, regardless of the riptides of trend and fashion that, for a time, attempted to smother all figurative artistry as meaningless.
He taught himself the techniques of past masters in oil, egg tempera, terra cotta, clay, wax, buon fresco and fresco secco. But he mixed those processes with a unique sense of rhythm and humor. Ultimately he produced objects that many of his collectors treasure as heirloom art. He shared his knowledge freely and gladly with any who cared to ask or listen.
Bill was a most unlikely master, humble as the earth he turned into sculpture or paintings and just as full of goodness and (artistic) nutrition. Yet, to some, his artwork seems literally magical.
Perhaps, with a bit of luck, Bill's oeuvre will become more widely available and appreciated. Multiple pieces of his work are shown or mentioned in the Autumn 2010 issue of the Detroit Home magazine article "Made to Treasure" by George Bulanda (pages 10 -12).
Meanwhile, the images shown here are just a poor first attempt to help an unpretentious master find a larger audience.
Should you have any work by William Girard, or personal insights about the artist, you are invited to share them with us, a small group of dedicated friends, collectors and admirers of the artist. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and enter William Girard on the subject line.
Bill Girard and Glenn Michaels circa 2003
The images appearing here have been gathered from a variety of sources. The primary media are oil paint (paintings), terra cotta and bronze (sculpture), pen and pencil.
For more information about William Girard, see:
As time and opportunity allow, more information about the work and life of artist William Girard will be made available.
Bill Girard, with Mollie, at home. (Lilly Bell is hiding under the covers of Bill's bed on the second floor.) Circa 11/2009.