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July 8, 2001, by David Hale

Longtime Fresno artist dies in Pennsylvania

Darwin Musselman, a painter and teacher who touched the lives of art lovers and students for nearly 50 years in Fresno, has died in Lancaster, Pa.

Musselman, who was 85, died June 28 after a brief illness. A native of Selma, he spent most of his life in Fresno as a graphic arts professor for 25 years at California State University, Fresno, and as an artist who was internationally recognized.

Self Portrait - 1937

Musselman and his wife, Ethel Walker Musselman, a Fresno native, left the area for the cooler climes of Los Osos in 1987. She died in 1994, and he moved to Lancaster shortly afterward to be near a son, Ronald, and his family.

Musselman began his career as an exhibiting artist in the mid-1930s while a student at Fresno State College. His work at that time was represented by landscapes and portraits.

Ethel in Blue - 1936

His work was distinguished by its diversity of subject and media. Sometimes as an object lesson to his students, first at Fresno High School and later at California College of Arts and Crafts and Fresno State by 1953, he tried his hand at just about every style known to mainstream of art -- realism, super-realism, cubism, abstract expressionism, trompe l'oeil and still life -- all of them with commercial success.

"I've been interested, almost from the beginning, in trying almost everything," he told an interviewer. "Partly, it was a way of keeping up the interest. But it also is a matter of the challenge, of solving problems, rather than doing the same thing over and over again."

Besides producing countless award-winning paintings, Musselman paid his dues as a commercial artist in public service. He designed the official seals of Fresno County, Fresno State, the California State University system, a California governor and the plaza fountain at the university. He was a founding member and a past president of the Fresno Art Center, predecessor to the Fresno Art Museum, and served on its board of trustees. Still, he may have been proudest of his influence on several generations of San Joaquin Valley students.

"Darwin was my first art teacher at Fresno State; that's where I met my husband Robin Gay McCline," says Sue McCline of Fresno. "He was a wonderful teacher. It was because of Darwin that I became an art major, and Gay went on to architectural school at Cal."

Musselman's last exhibition was a 55-year retrospective in 1999. His son,

Ronald, a member of the Franklin and Marshall College faculty, organized the exhibition.

Besides Ronald, survivors are a son, Steven of North Easton, Mass., a daughter, Carol Woods of Lexington, KY., seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Private interment will be in Los Osos. The family requests that remembrances be made in the form of donations to the Fresno Art Museum.

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