Queer Places:
Juilliard School, 60 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023
The Art Students League of New York, 215 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019

Richard Banks (March 29, 1929 - May 5, 1995) was a close personal friend of Carl Van Vechten's during the 1950s and 1960s. Banks, a professional illustrator and fine artist, worked closely with ballet companies in NY, creat ing portraits of dancers, as well as of NYC socialites and counter culture icons, all the while Van Vechten was photographing the same circles. Van Vechten would go on to write the notes for Bank's first few one man shows.

Richard Banks was the son of a dancer mother and a journalist father who later became director of the news bureau at Yale University. Banks was raised in Palm Beach. He was a graduate of Palm Beach High School. At the age of 10, Banks developed a love of the piano and music, and wrote his first composition at age 11. He was a first-place winner in the National Piano Competition. He later attended Juilliard. "But I couldn't make a living at that," he said later in an interview. "The acceptance was there, but the money wasn't." He attended the Arts Students League in New York and studied with both Ann Norton and Mary McKinnon Johnson, who started him on his portraiture career. While in New York, Banks worked at I. Miller, sketching shoes alongside Andy Warhol, whom Banks once described as "annoying." "If you had told any of us that Andy was going to be the superstar of the age, we'd have rolled around on the floor screaming," Banks said in a 1992 interview with the Palm Beach Daily News. "But he knew something none of us did. He knew how to manipulate the media." Warhol spent most of his time at I. Miller doing sketches of his colleagues, especially Banks. "I wish I had one of those sketches now," he once said. "I understand they're worth a fortune."

Banks was a society portrait painter whose clients were in New York, Newport and Palm Beach. Banks drew from models. Banks used as subjects friends from the New York City Ballet. Today Banks is remembered as a groundbreaking gay erotic artist, whose work paid particular attention to the male figure. A notice from 1962: "Lobster Pot Gallery Nantucket, Massachusetts Presents July 15-20, 1962, Richard Banks. This is the first Nantucket showing of paintings by the young Palm Beach Artist Richard Banks. Banks studied at the Norton Gallery of Art. His paintings are contemporary in spirit and arrestingly realistic. It is Mr. Banks' feeling that the grace and flow of line in his work can be attributed to his experience in musical composition."

by Carl Van Vechten

Richard Banks studied Experimental Art at the Ontario College of Art. Since his first exhibition at Gallery 76 in 1977, Richard Banks’ works on paper and canvas have been featured in solo and group exhibitions at A Space (Toronto, 1977), YYZ (Toronto, 1982, 1984), Monumenta (Toronto, 1982), 0 Kromazone (West Germany, 1982), Chromaliving (Toronto, 1983), Meaningful Drawings (MacDonald Art Centre, Guelph, 1984), Riot, Calm and Luxury (Harbourfront Art Gallery, 1985) and Four Legs Good (Harbourfront Art Gallery, 1985).

Banks painted several prominent Palm Beachers, including Carola Mandel, Barton Gubelmann and Rose Kennedy. He was known for portraying his subjects in a soft, flattering way. He once defended his style, saying, "I don't care what anybody says. Flattery is part of portraiture. Look at portraits painted through the ages, hanging in museums you can't tell me that all those people were that good-looking."

Richard Banks, a longtime fixture on the Newport and Palm Beach social scenes, died Friday, May 5, 1995, at the Philip Hulitar Hospice Center in Providence, R.I. He was 64.

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