William Van Doren

January 2011, at the exhibition “Moment & Horizon: The 365 Sunsets of 2010”


Apple and Sky, 1969. Oil on canvasboard, 16 x 20.

Birthday, 1983. Oil on canvas, 36 x 48.

Trees Between Fields, 1985. Oil on canvas, 13 x 23.

Cover for ‘Albemarle’ magazine, 1987. Oil on paper, 9 x 12.

Aquamarine, 1989. Oil on illustration board, 23 x 40.

Untitled, 2000. Oil on wood panel, 11 x 14.

Tabula Rosa 1, 2010. Oil on canvas, 30 x 30.



William Van Doren

William Van Doren recently completed an unprecedented painting series, having painted every sunset for eleven years. The series, originally titled The Very Rich Hours, comprises more than 4,000 works from January 1, 2006 through 2016. These are in addition to more than 1,000 sunsets Van Doren painted beginning in 1995. This work forms the basis for a book in progress, Into the Sunset: Paintings and Notes from Four Thousand Nights. Much more than a compendium of scenic skyscapes or a celebration of daily paintings, Into the Sunset explores a process of transformation—how attention to a regularly occurring event can eventually change both the art and the artist.

Entirely self-taught, Van Doren began painting while a student at Johns Hopkins University, where he studied history and English and earned early election to Phi Beta Kappa. (Hopkins did not have a studio art program at that time.) He soon began selling his work. He continued developing his art, while working as a literary agency editor in New York, as a ghostwriter, designer and editor in Los Angeles, and as an editor and designer back in his native Virginia.

Van Doren’s many projects tend to join visual art with other media. In L.A. he created The Wall Paper, a poster-size publication Writer’s Digest reviewed as “unlike any other magazine you’ve ever seen.” Novelist Steve Erickson wrote of The Wall Paper: “The word and the image are one. The word is the image and the image is the word.” The Wall Paper included several issues Van Doren hand-silkscreened (including text) in several colors at 24x30". As a screenwriter Van Doren was hired to write film treatments for Five Smooth Stones and other novels, and the initial feature film treatment based on discovery of the wreckage of the Titanic, which he drafted aboard the search vessel at Woods Hole. His first original poster, which played a part in bringing rail transit back to southern California, is displayed in several transportation museums, while another poster was selected for a special exhibition of the California African American Museum and for the traveling exhibition Artists Versus World War Three. He has interviewed B.B. King, Don Cornelius, and others, for Soul magazine; as a musician, he was selected for three consecutive years to perform on Songwriters Showcase at The Improv in Hollywood. He has rewritten or ghostwritten dozens of books, including titles published by HarperCollins, William Morrow, Doubleday and others; edited, designed and published fiction and nonfiction trade books by a variety of authors; and mounted performance art shows combining original music and story with large-scale projections of his art. He is the author of 47 Minutes on Christmas Eve.

In Van Doren’s work, painting is the basis of a larger narrative. The art, and that story, are the subjects of Into the Sunset.


[Chronology Under Construction]