The Alphabet of Art

About the Authors

Robert J. McKnight

Robert J. McKnight was the son of a prominent family in Springfield, Ohio. Born in 1906, he grew up in Ohio and Long Island, New York, and graduated from Yale University in 1927 with a degree in Economics. He then studied sculpture at Yale Art School and in 1929 was awarded the Prix de Rome as one of the top young sculptors in the United States. This award allowed him to further his education in Rome and Paris for three years.

When he returned to the U.S., he found the country in the midst of the Depression and scant prospects for a career as a sculptor. McKnight therefore combined his talents for design with his business education and became a self-employed industrial designer. He designed refrigerators, thermostats, and 42 different kinds of riding lawn mowers. He also designed glasses used to view 3-D movies, and a vertical lathe that won him recognition as one of the top industrial engineers in the country.

From 1939 to 1943, McKnight was Director of the Memphis Academy of Art in Memphis, Tennessee. He served as an Army engineer during World War II, in North Africa and Italy. After the war, he returned to industrial design work, and in 1952 he was appointed Director of the Brooks Gallery of Art in Memphis, a post he held until retirement.

During his later years, McKnight remained active, teaching, sculpting, and developing manuscripts for the Alphabet of Art and related projects. In his late seventies, he single-handedly designed and built a small cantilevered house overhanging a cliff in Rising Fawn, Georgia. He died in 1989.

Jack Massa

Jack Massa is a writer and learning consultant based in Southwest Florida. He is the founder of Guidance Communications, Inc., a company that helps organizations turn information into knowledge and skills.


The Alphabet of Art web site has received these awards: I know Robert McKnight would be proud.
About the Authors