Professor emeritus of art Michael Lewis passes away
The University of Maine community and the art world are mourning the loss of longtime UMaine professor emeritus of art Michael H. Lewis, who passed away June 27 after a long illness. He was 79.
Lewis was 25 when he joined UMaine’s then three-member Art Department in 1966, led by founder Vincent Hartgen. Lewis, a Brooklyn, New York native, said in a 2016 interview prior to his retirement that he and his wife, May, came to Maine never intending to stay — they just never found a reason to leave.
Lewis was instrumental in helping set the foundation for UMaine’s professional Department of Art as a vigorous place to learn from artists and scholars. During his time at UMaine, Lewis not only taught painting and drawing courses, but also mentored students and faculty alike, and served as department chair and associate dean.
As an artist, he created an innovative, ever-evolving body of paintings and drawings exhibited in Maine and beyond. His paintings, including those in his signature turpentine wash, are in private collections and museums across the country and in far corners of the world.
Personally and professionally, Lewis pursued greater understanding of mysticism and spirituality. He used landscapes as a medium to explore and enlighten, reflecting the effect of Maine on his subconscious.
Painting and teaching were Lewis’ parallel passions. He once described his role in the classroom for more than a half-century as that of a “provocateur,” empowering students to stretch their imaginations. His message to generations of students he taught and mentored: Do what you love. Believe that your work will inspire others. Support creativity and keep making art.
He touched the hearts and minds of countless people through his art and teaching. He will be deeply missed by his colleagues, students and family.
A private celebration of life will be held by the family.
In 2016, the Professor Michael H. Lewis Art Scholarship Fund was created at the University of Maine Foundation with gifts from colleagues, admirers, former students and friends in celebration of his distinguished career. More information about the scholarship fund is available by calling 207.581.5100.