Gregory D. Ridley, Jr. (Tennessee, 1925-2004)

Gregory Ridley enjoyed a long and distinguished career in the arts which earned him honors as a painter, sculptor, and teacher but his highest acclaim came later in his career for his mastery of metal arts, especially copper friezes. Born in Smyrna, TN, his family moved to Nashville when he was 11. After his service in the United States Navy during World War II, he returned to Nashville and enrolled at Fisk University where he studied under the renowned Harlem Renaissance painter and muralist, Aaron Douglas, who remained a close friend and mentor until his death in 1979. Like Douglas, Gregory Ridley was a social realist who sought a larger integration of the Arts and his metal reliefs, in particular, exhibit a style of rhythmic narrative inspired by Douglas’ murals. Ridley’s work was shown in significant exhibitions and institutions throughout his career as he continued to evolve his style and expand his mastery of various media. Ridley dedicated much of his life to the education of young artists, holding highly revered faculty appointments at several Southern universities. After his second term at Tennessee State University he retired from teaching but remained very active, taking an artist in residence appointment at Morehouse College and conducting workshops and seminars elsewhere. Ridley’s work continues to be widely exhibited and is included in the collections of museums, corporations, and individuals throughout the United States. His latest major work, “A Story of Nashville”, is a series of 80 hammered copper frieze panels built into the tops of the bookshelves in the Grand Reading Room of the Nashville public library. This project is the artist’s largest work. It tells the story of Nashville’s history from its pre-settlement period to the present day and promises to be a legacy for the city and its residents. 

Studied
Fisk University
Tennessee State University (B.S.)
University of Louisville (M.A.)

Exhibited
Fisk University 1945-1972
Atlanta University
Summer Festival of Art: Society of American Veteran Artists, NYC
Tennessee State Museum
Cheekwood Museum of Art
Nashville Artists Guild
Tennessee State University
J.B. Speed Museum
Toledo Arts Center
Morehouse College
Boston Museum of Fine Arts
University of  Iowa
Smith-Mason Gallery
Xavier University 
Sheraton Hotel, Philadelphia 

Work
Fisk University
Winston-Salem State College
Clark Atlanta University
Nashville Public Library

Member
National  Conference of Artists (founder)

Educated
Alabama State University
Grambling State University
Tennessee State University
Fisk University
City University of New York 

References
Davenport,  Davenport's Art Reference
McGowan, Who's Who in American Art
Falk, Who Was Who in American Art, 1564-1975
Krantz, American Artists: An Illustrated Survey of Leading Contemporary Americans
Cedarholm,  Afro-American Artists: A Bio-Bibliographical 
Cedarholm,  Afro-American Artists: A Bio-Bibliographical Directory
Driskell, Amistad II
Atkinson,  Black Dimensions: In Contemporary Art
Dover, American Negro Art                                             
Harley, A Checklist of Afro-American Artists