Æthelred Eldridge, a former Ohio University art professor and an influential avant-garde artist, died on Thursday.
Eldridge was an associate professor in the OU School of Art from 1957 to 2014. Due to his unique style of art, he was given his own curriculum since his style of art did not fit into a specific category in the School of Art.
He had an abundance of passions for what he taught, and his class lectures were considered works of art themselves. He would weave playfulness, invective speech tapestries with word associations, electrically charged phonetics and scrambled catchphrases into his lectures to awe listeners, according to a university news release.
“We are saddened to hear of the passing of Æthelred Eldridge, an eccentric artist and professor who made such an influence on not only the students he taught but to our University as a whole,” OU President Duane Nellis said in a news release. “His whimsical personality showed through in all his lectures and paintings, and will be remembered for years to come. He will truly be missed.”
He was born James Edward Leonard Eldridge in Monroe, Michigan, on April 21, 1930. Before teaching at OU, he played college football at the University of Michigan, and he was a pilot and officer in the U.S. Navy.
Eldridge was known globally for his black and white art accompanied by esoteric writings inspired by William Blake. He is also the founder of Golgonooza Church, also known as the Church of William Blake, outside of Athens.
He is most known by OU students, faculty and Athens residents for his mural on a wall of Seigfred Hall, the main building for the School of Art. The 50-by-80 feet mural was first painted in 1966. Now in its fourth iteration painted in 1987, the mural depicts a vast sea of Olde English and contorted figures. It has been an icon in Athens and at OU, and it was restored in 2015.
“Æthelred was a brilliant artist, generous educator and non-conformist pioneer who refused to underestimate anyone,” Duane McDiarmid, friend and professor in the School of Art, said in a news release. “He was an insightful student of life and culture, and a profoundly deep well of poetic knowledge. More than that his ability to care was infinite.”
There is a public memorial service and small art exhibition to honor Eldridge at The Ridges Auditorium on Dec. 1 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.