Fine artist Eleanor Merritt Darlington passed away peacefully in her home on Wednesday, January 16 after a long battle with lung cancer. She was 85.
Born in Harlem, NYC, she was the youngest of five children born to Jamaican immigrants. She attended the High School of Music and Art and graduated in 1951. She continued her studies at Brooklyn College where she learned from such luminaries as Ad Rinehart, Mark Rothko and James Ernst. She received her B.A. in Art in 1955, and her M.A. in Fine Arts and Education in 1958. Merritt was the first African-American art teacher and department chair in the Nassau County district.
Eleanor was involved in the greater arts community and its administration. She served as chairman of the Public Art Committee and on the board of the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County. She also served on Women’s Caucus for Art; National Museum of Women in the Arts, was Board Emeritus Member of John & Mabel Ringling Museum of Art; Docent for 25 years at the Ringling Museum, board member and former President of the Venice Art Center; Arts Council board member; chair of the Art in Public Places Program; board member of Art Center, Sarasota. She was a long standing member of Florida Artists Group, and Petticoat Painters. Ms. Merritt founded and was a member of Women Contemporary Artists.
Among her many awards, Eleanor was honored by The Ringling Foundation in 2017. The Sarasota-Manatee chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women recognized her as one of their 2015 Women In Power honorees.
Merritt has exhibited in group and solo shows throughout her career. In February 2017, the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County hosted a retrospective exhibition of Merritt’s work, entitled Sixty Years of Painting, 1957–2017. Read more about the exhibit at Broadway World. A one woman show, Revelations of Goddesses was displayed from 2014 – 2015 at Houston Museum of African American Culture, in Houston, Texas. Read more about the exhibit at The Houstonian.
She was married to Lorenzo Merritt from 1954 – 1976, and to Chris Darlington from 1980 to his passing in 2017. She is survived by her sister, Mrs. Pauline Butler, of Tucson AZ, two daughters, Ms. Lori Merritt and Dr. Lisa Merritt, granddaughter and emerging artist Amara Merritt, as well as a host of nieces, nephews and friends.
Ms. Merritt believed that
“…Art can open a window in time – it speaks to the heritage of the past, but carries these traditions into the future”
as we will carry Eleanor’s memory.
The Passing of a Painter: Eleanor Merritt
By Philip Lederer, SRQ Magazine