Malcolm McKesson


Malcolm McKesson died in February 1999, only a very few years after revealing to the world his lifetime secret—writing, drawing, and painting about his personal world.

McKesson was born into a well-to-do New York family in 1909 and lived a rather privileged life with many opportunities. While he seemed to appreciate this position, things did not seem to work. His businessman father brought him into the company following a very good education, but he did not seem to be an effective manager. Trying the army, he learned early that he was not cut out to be a soldier. Then he tried to teach school but he said that was a disaster.  So he was pleased when his wife, the poet Madeleine Mason, convinced him that he need not have a career but could stay home, for he loved the arts, his wife, and the secret explorations of his mind.

It is these explorations that emerge in his provocative works of art. As he confronted his feelings and wrote his fantasies, particularly his fictionalized autobiography, “Matriarchy”, he sought to illustrate them. So we can share a bit as we view his drawings and paintings that are complex, exotic and subtlety erotic. The works often have strong architectural references for he also was an admirer/student of fine architecture.

To meet this gentle, unassuming man was a joy. He was an interesting and articulate companion. He lived in the same New York apartment since the 1950s and alone since his wife died in 1990. However, he hardly seemed reclusive for he was active in body, mind and soul. As Dr. Martin Wilner, the psychoanalyst, wrote about him, “He shifts readily from speaking about his life to his drawings…while at times he speaks with precision about persons, places and times, it soon becomes clear that these factual anchors are quite transposable…fantasy can become autobiography, reality becomes ephemeral and dreamlike, and intensely perverse reveries become art.”

McKesson’s works are extraordinary and cannot be easily classified either fine or outsider art.  Rather they are eagerly sought by admirers of both and are included in important collections and museums.