Eleanor Merritt was a native New Yorker, an honors graduate of the illustrious High School of Music and Art; she received her B.A. and M.A. degrees in Fine Arts from Brooklyn College CUNY. Her work was influenced by the training she received from notable professors at Brooklyn College, including Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt, James Ernst, Kurt Seligmann, and Mark Dillion.
Eleanor Merritt’s work spans the U.S. and internationally. Her work occupied a variety of art spaces, including museums, galleries, universities, and business centers, where it is widely acknowledged and revered. Included on the list are the University of Florida, the University of Connecticut, American International College, the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, the Carnegie Endowment Institute in NYC, the Contemporary Art Museum in Jacksonville, Florida, the Polk Museum in Lakeland as well as a recent acquisition by Florida’s state Ringling Museum in Sarasota Florida. She had over 25 one-woman shows and two 60- year retrospectives, and her works had traveled to California, Colorado, Texas, the U.K., and Shimonoseki, Japan.
Merritt was a nationally renowned and service-oriented leader in the arts community. Eleanor served on the Arts council board as president of the Venice Art Center and was the first Black female Trustee at the John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art. As a retired chairperson of the art department in the Westbury NY school system, she used her teaching and administrative skills through her community work in Sarasota, Florida, and continued teaching at various lifelong learning institutions and national arts community lectures. Moreover, she was also a charter member of the National Museum of the Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. She also devoted years of her expertise as a member of the Florida Artist Group, Women Contemporary Painters, Petticoat Painters, and Sarasota’s Art Uptown artists collective.
” Selected works from the last 60 years have been included in this exhibition to mark the transitions which have taken place in my work and in my life. Although my imagery is mainly figurative, the concepts behind the visual statement deal with very personal expressions. Actually, this exhibition is a sum total of a 60-year journey as a woman of color who is also an artist. “
” During that journey, I have made political statements, personal statements revolving around close relationships in my life; statements about the condition of women and the roles they play; statements about the connections I feel to my ancestry; statements about spirituality and strength of women. Some themes are repeated; they seem to re-emerge as I try to express the moment, the concept, in a better way. “
” The most important turning point for me in terms of style and technique came when I changed from painting in oils, then to acrylics, and then moved to water-based media. I have found in that transition the freedom of working with color and the ability to achieve greater fluidity in line and brush. The use of collage and mixed-media techniques has opened and expanded my vision to perhaps a more abstract image, but certainly, one which I still feel is strongly expressive of who I am as an artist. “
2022 John & Mabel Ringling Museum “Remembrance”
2019 North Sarasota Library ASALH “ Eleanor Merritt Memorial Exhibit”
- 2017 Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County Retrospective: “Sixty Years of Painting, 1957–2017”
- 2015 Plymouth Harbor, Longboat Key, FL
- 2013 HMAAC, Houston,TX
- 2011 Ageless Creativity, LongBoat Key, FL
- 2008 State College Florida, Color Matters, Bradenton, FL
- 2007 Ringling School of Art & Design Selby Gallery, Sarasota, FL
- 2006 Jacaranda Library, North Port, FL
- 2005 Venice Art Center, Venice, FL
- 2005 Florida Museum of Art (formerly: Deland Museum of Art) 10 year retrospective, Deland, FL
- 2004 Manatee Community College South, Venice, FL
- 2003 North Port Library, North Port, FL
- 2002 Venice Art Center, Venice, FL
- 2001 Unity Gallery, Sarasota, FL
- 2001 Polk Community College; Cloth Paintings, Tampa, FL
- 1998 Palm Harbour, Sarasota, FL
- 1997 Hillsborough Community College, Tampa, FL
- 1995 Unity Gallery, Sarasota, FL
- 1995 Sarasota Art Center 20 year Retrospective, Sarasota, FL
- 1995 Barrier Island Group for the Arts, Sanibel, FL
- 1994 Fine Arts Gallery Central Library, Tampa, FL
- 1993 Zora Neale Hurston Museum, Eatonville, FL
- 1992 Women’s Resource Center, Sarasota, FL
- 1991 Central National Bank, Sarasota, FL
- 1988 University of Florida, St .Petersburg, FL
- 1988 Manatee Community College, Venice, FL
- 1987 Women’s Resource Center, Sarasota, FL
- 1987 The Craftery Gallery, Hartford, CT
- 1975 American International College, Springfield, MA
- 1974 Nassau County Cultural Museum Hempstead, NY
- 2020 Ringling College of Art, Sarasota, FL Spectrum: A Celebration of Artistic Diversity
- 2019 North Sarasota Library, Sarasota, FL Eleanor Merritt: An Artist’s Journey
- 2018 Asalh: Black Muse
- 2018 Petticoat Painters Annual Exhibit
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 luminaries such as Ad Reinhardt, 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 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 the 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 the 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 was 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 Ms. Merritt’s Obituary, Legacy.com.
"I have always used figurative references in my work. Over time these images have become more abstract and the painted surface very textural. My paintings have symbolic and/or personal revelations as to my point of view. The viewer must look at the artwork as images not based on reality but on pure imagination. My style continues to evolve with persistent exploration. As an artist, this journey has been one of constant experimentation and renewal of my creative force with each image I create."
In honor of former board member Eleanor Merritt, a special fund was created to attract and assist artists of color to join the Florida Artists Group.
A.S.A.L.H. Memorial Exhibit
The exhibit showcased the diversity of techniques and styles Ms. Merritt has used during her sixty years of creativty.
Works included painting, mono-prints and ceramics. Mrs. Harriet Cowan, a family friend attended, Dr. Lisa Merritt and Panel discussion facilitated by Michelle Parchment of the Sarasota Arts Museum.
Eleanor Merritt Darlington with her daughter Lori Merritt. Herald-Tribune Photo by Rod MillingtonEleanor was honored by The Ringling foundation at The Association of Fundraising Professionals National Philanthropy Day Luncheon at Michael's on East, Tuesday November, 14, 2017. The group's mission Is to advance philanthropy by enabling people and organizations to practice ethical and effective fundraising.
ARTS AND CULTURAL ALLIANCE OF SARASOTA COUNTY
FEBRUARY 2, 2017 THROUGH FEBRUARY 24, 2017
Take the 2017 Retrospective Virtual Gallery tour.
FROM ELEANOR MERRITT…
Selected works from the last 60 years have been included in this exhibition, to mark the transitions which have taken place in my work and in my life. Although my imagery is mainly figurative, the concepts behind the visual statement deal with very personal expressions. Actually, this exhibition is a sum total of a 60-year journey as a woman of color who is also an artist.
During that journey, I have made political statements; personal statements revolving around close relationships in my life; statements about the condition of women and the roles they play; statements about the connections I feel to my ancestry; statements about the spirituality and the strength of women. Some themes are repeated; they seem to re-emerge as I try to express the moment, the concept, in a better way.
The most important turning point for me in terms of style and technique came when I changed from painting in oils, then to acrylics, and then moved to water-based media. I have found in that transition the freedom of working with color and the ability to achieve greater fluidity in line and brush. The use of collage and mixed-media techniques has opened and expanded my vision to perhaps a more abstract image, but certainly, one which I still feel is strongly expressive of who I am as an artist."
To read more about this show, please visit:
SRQ Magazine: "Retrospective Exhibit Celebrates Artist Eleanor Merritt" by Philip Lederer.
Broadway World Review: "Eleanor Merritt Art Exhibit at Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County" by Carolan Trbovich.
COLLECTORS & SELECTIONS
Several works were purchased during the showing.
Ira Kasdan was gifted Ancestral Dream Dance for his birthday by his wife, Victoria.
Carrying Firewood was chosen by James and Caryl to complement their extensive art collection.
Julie and Gordon Albert were delighted to bring home Green Goddess.
Tears in the Rain is now owned by Pat Chatard.
The Retrospective Artists Reception took place on February 9, 2017, and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Eleanor Merritt with Alliance Executive Director Jim Shirley.
Ms. Merritt describes her work JAMIE AND ME.
In her opening statement, the artist describes her career and the evolution of her work over 60 years.
We had a great turnout of both old friends and new!
Harriett and Clarence congratulate Ms. Merritt on the retrospective show.
Eleanor Merritt, Lori Merritt, and painting Grandma was 105.
The artist, with her works ANGEL OF MERCY - 911 (left) and CARRYING FIREWOOD (right).
Ringling College of Art & Design presents: SPECTRUM A CELEBRATION OF ARTISTIC DIVERSITY
This exhibition shines a bright light on the spectrum of African-American artistic practices from the early 20th century to the present day. We invite you to explore the stylistic evolutions powerfully expressed in the works of these 23 African-American artists. Including vibrant paintings, quilts, prints, sculptures, and drawings, this exhibition is a unique opportunity to view historical reflections and contributions of cultural importance.
Featured artists include Benny Andrews, E.M. Bannister, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Romare Bearden, Ernest Crichlow, Joseph Delaney, Robert S. Duncanson, Gaye Ellington, Gale Fulton-Ross, Frederick Jones, Lois Mailou Jones, Ronald Joseph, Jacob Lawrence, Richard Mayhew, Eleanor Merritt, Charles Ethan Porter, Faith Ringgold, Aminah Robinson, Therman Statom, James Van Der Zee, and Charles White.
Ringling College of Art and Design is grateful to partner with the ACA Galleries in bringing these exceptional works to Sarasota. We would also like to thank Mr. Warren R. and Marie E. Colbert, Mrs. Carol Camiener, and Dr. Lisa Merritt for the generous loan of artworks for this exhibition. Special thanks to Melanie S. Thomas, Greatness Beyond Measure, Newtown Alive, Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition, and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens for their support and partnership.
- Newtown Alive Legacy Reception, January 18, 5:30-8 pm
- MLK Day Celebrations, January 20, All Day
- Opening Reception (Art Walk), January 24, 5-8 pm
- Art and Soul in Motion + Spoken Word Cafe, January 25, 6-9 pm
- An evening lecture with Marian Carpenter, Director of Collections, Ringling Museum, February 5, 6-8 pm. The presentation begins at 6:30 pm
Jessika Ward TV Interviews Eleanor Merritt
This is one of the many interviews where Eleanor Merritt has talked about her career and artworks. She was a passionate painter who had put out her works in universities, corporate offices, museums, galleries, libraries, and art centers.
Gallery Hours: Monday – Friday, 10 am – 4 pm
Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe presents two ‘Voices’ community forums
"Meet the Florida Highwaymen Artist" Eleanor Merritt Darlington, moderator
Photos courtesy of Don Daly Photo.
On February 8, 2016, WBTT (the only professional black theater company on Florida’s West Coast) presented a fundraising program that focused on the Florida Highwaymen, a group of 26 African-American artists who – from the early 1950s through the 1980s – painted beautiful landscapes of undeveloped, serene Florida landscape. The artists sold their paintings door-to-door to businesses and individuals throughout Florida because gallery owners in the segregated South wouldn’t show their work.
The evening included a reception to meet artists and view the artwork. There was a panel discussion with the artists and longtime collector Larry Helmuth which was moderated by Eleanor Merritt Darlington. Highwayman Al Black also presented a painting demonstration.
Reception Attendees with Ms. Merritt
Art Center Sarasota showcases powerful works by African-American artists.
by: Marty Fugate, Staff Writer, yourobserver.com
"ASALH: Black Muse 2016" exhibition at Art Center Sarasota
Please join us for the Artists Reception, Thursday, Jan. 28, 5 to 7 p.m. at Art Center, Sarasota Exhibition runs January 28 through March 2016
Ms. Merritt is pictured outside Art Center Sarasota.
Story and photo by Marty Fugate, for yourobserver.com