McKie Trotter was born in 1918 in Manchester, Georgia. He pursued his growing interest in art, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1940.
Trotter was drafted into the war in 1943, where he served as an infantry captain in 1943. He was captured and held as a prisoner of war until 1945. After the war, he returned to Georgia and earned a Master’s degree at the University of Georgia, Athens.
In 1948, a teaching position at Texas Wesleyan College in Fort Worth prompted him to relocate to Texas. Far from being a cultural backwater, Fort Worth had some progressive artists in residence in the 1940s and 1950s. Trotter was a latecomer to the artists’ group referred to as the Fort Worth Circle, which was important primarily due to the social interactions and aesthetic experimentations of the group’s members, rather than for fostering any particular style. Though Trotter didn’t arrive in Fort Worth until 1948, he was already well-versed in regionalism and modernism after being instructed by Lamar Dodd and Howard Wilbur Thomas at the University of Georgia.
Unlike some of the Fort Worth Circle artists who later decamped to New York City or Santa Fe, Trotter chose to stay in Fort Worth, where he first taught at Texas Wesleyan College for five years, and was appointed as the head of the art department. In 1953, he became professor in Texas Christian University’s art program and taught painting for the next 34 years, until his retirement in 1988. Among his students were Jack Boynton, who moved to Houston, and Fort Worth artists John Hartley, David Conn and Ron Crouch, among many others.
Trotter was versatile in various mediums, including graphite, watercolor, screenprints, collage, oil and casein. He was a strong colorist, who created variations on a compositional theme using differing color schemes and media.
The artist certainly saw and responded to the work of the Abstract Expressionists. His works may invite comparisons to Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell, but the influence of those artists on Trotter was synthesized rather than imitated by him. Although his work appears spontaneous and gestural, there is evidence that he drew studies of the compositions and planned his color schemes before proceeding with his paintings. Trotter did not move in a straight trajectory from semi-representational works to increasingly abstract work. He continued both approaches throughout his career.
Trotter died in his Fort Worth residence in 1999.
Pepsi-Cola Company’s Third annual Exhibition: Paintings of the Year, National Academy of Design, New York, 1946-1947
Local Artists’ Exhibition, Fort Worth Art Association, Texas, 1949-1955
Annual Texas Painting and Sculpture Exhibition, Dallas Museum of Art, Texas, 1950-1958
Texas Fine Arts Association General Exhibition, Austin, Texas, 1951-1953
Young American Paintings, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1954
Southwestern Art: A Sampling of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture, Dallas Museum of Art, Texas, 1960
Annual Exhibition of Artists of Fort Worth, Fort Worth Art Center, Texas, 1961-1967
Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas
Dallas Museum of Art, Texas
Murray State College, Tishomingo, Oklahoma Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas Old Jail Art Center, Albany, Texas
Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas