Urquhart Wilcox (1874-1941), Warren W. Zurbrick, 1932; oil on canvas, Overall: 40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm) Frame: 44 1/2 x 34 1/2 in. (113 x 87.6 cm); Gift of Betty Wilcox Schaefer, 1985
They say “a picture is worth a thousand words.” But what does a portrait say? This portrait shows a man sitting in a chair. We can tell from his clothing and posture that he is a man of importance, possibly a director or executive. Warren W. Zurbrick, the man in this portrait, was principal at no fewer than five Buffalo schools during the course of his career. The painter, Urquhart Wilcox, a Buffalo native and brother of Ansley Wilcox, in whose home Theodore Roosevelt’s inauguration took place, was a teacher himself at the Albright Art School. The artist captured Zurbrick’s power and control through his posture, facial expression, and color scheme, creating an image one can instantly recognize as a figure of authority.
Have you ever been called down to the principal’s office? You walk nervously down the hall and sit across from an unsmiling authority figure, who gazes at you from a humble chair and a rumpled suit, possibly ready to take down notes about what has happened. As a teacher, the painter Urquhart Wilcox was probably familiar with this scenario. Perhaps he had to sit across from the principal himself! In this painting of a Buffalo principal, Warren Zurbrick, you get the sense this man is waiting to talk to you personally. What experiences do you have with principals? Are they scary or nice?
—Deirdre B. Reynolds, 2015