Frankfort Heritage Press

Frankfort Heritage Press

Paul Sawyier: Kentucky Artist
Paul Sawyier: Kentucky Artist

$21.95 + shipping

This book chronicles the life and art of Paul Sawyier, a celebrated Kentuckian, offering the details of his life and how circumstances affected his art.

Order online or by calling (502) 320-9122.


Paul Sawyier's paintings, and his unique impressionist style, have become so well known in central Kentucky that they now count among the several attributes -- horses, bourbon, bluegrass -- that together define central Kentucky culture. Going into the second decade of the 21st Century, more than a hundred years after he left Frankfort to live and paint in a houseboat on the Kentucky River, his watercolors are more readily recognized and appreciated than he could have dreamed of achieving during a lifetime of yearning for recognition as a professional artist.

Yet few people today know much if anything about the man himself -- the Paul Sawyier whose personality stands enigmatically behind every one of his hundreds of paintings. A master of impressionism, Sawyier's life is itself impressionistic, and few modern admirers of his art know anything at all of the man, the artist, and the social times in which he lived and worked. The little people think they know about him is often wrong.

This biography aims to change that. Tracing Paul Sawyier's growth, development and evolution as an artist, four life stages are described in detail -- including important new information that has not been previously published.

These life stages familiarize the reader with

  • the youthful Paul Sawyier, growing up and encountering his small measure of formal art studies;
  • the young artist, painting oil portraits and striving to establish himself in old Frankfort of the late 1800s;
  • the mature artist who widely painted Frankfort environs and central Kentucky in three distinct periods over 22 years; and
  • his final five years after he departed Kentucky for a drastically different lifestyle in New York City and the Catskill Mountains.

Through most of his life he painted prolifically, while his art, and his artistic preferences, never stopped evolving. Along the way he made dozens of friends, had at least two significant romantic involvements, and established many solid supporters who gladly collected his art until the day he died. This book reflects intent that readers will encounter the true Paul Sawyier, an interesting person of dignity and charm as well as a fine artist. Along the way, certain popular misinformation about Paul Sawyier will be discarded, and a noted son of Frankfort, and of Kentucky, will be accurately known -- rediscovered -- and remembered for the rich legacy he left us.

William Donald Coffey

After forty years of (mostly) writing for federal and state governments, Don Coffey retired and began writing whatever he pleased. Other writings include a stage play, Two Loves and a River, concerning Sawyier's storied romance with Mayme Bull; another stage play, Maisie's Dead; an operetta, The Parables; and the two-hour show Legends of the Great Hall featuring ancient music and dance. Don and his wife Sylvia continue decades of involvement in and promotion of traditional music and dance, and each morning arise gratefully on their farm in Shelby County, Kentucky.

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Frankfort Heritage Press

The Frankfort Heritage Press is a non-profit organization and is patterned for charitable, literary and educational purposes. Our goals are to further inform Kentuckians about Franklin County's rich history, to build a photographic archive available to all, and to publish materials for those who have an interest in recapturing Frankfort's past and preserving its many historical landmarks.

Frankfort Heritage Press | Frankfort, Kentucky, USA