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Lee Boynton, Annapolis artist and teacher, dies

Lee Boynton, known for his art murals throughout the city of Annapolis depicting landscapes, history and the Chesapeake Bay, died of colon cancer April 24. He was 62.

Mr. Boynton created works that depicted Chesapeake watermen, the Maine coastline and Maryland farms and fields. Those in the Annapolis arts community recalled him as an icon in the city for his work and his mentorship of emerging artists.

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Over several decades, he nurtured local students he taught at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis. He was one of its first artists-in-residence and taught for about 25 years.

Linnell Bowen, president of Maryland Hall, described Mr. Boynton as a "peaceful and serene" man who enjoyed teaching and learning from his students. It was common for Ms. Bowen to catch him conducting class outside on sunny days, highly engaged with his students.

"We are grateful for his many years of teaching countless students with great dedication to his art form and to Maryland Hall," she said. "He will be missed as an artist, a teacher and friend to all of us."

The son of John and Doris Boynton, he grew up in Fairfield, Conn.

He began painting at the age of 8 when his mother signed him up for an oil painting class at a YWCA.

He spent his summers in a small island off the coast of Maine, where he became fascinated with lobstermen and boat builders.

"My dad was a faithful man," said his daughter, Margie Boynton of Annapolis. "He associated with fishermen. They were hardworking people and faithful people. They worked with nature to make a living. He observed nature to make a living."

He studied geology and art at Syracuse University and graduated there in 1976.

He spent the first 15 years of his career as an illustrator in commercial art. He would later go on to study at the Arts Students League in New York City and the Cape Cod School of Art.

In a 2004 article in The Sun, Mr. Boynton recalled studying with American Impressionist Henry Hensche at the Cape Cod School. In the article, he described Mr. Hensche "creating sunlight on canvas -- the most riveting, magical thing I had ever seen, and I became a disciple."

Mr. Boynton's works always had a strong presence of light, said Cynthia McBride, owner of McBride Galleries in Annapolis. She described light as a character in his pieces.

"His artwork glowed," said Ms. McBride, who showcased his work for decades at the studio. "He had such a unique, fresh style."

The combination of light and nature grew into artistic inspiration during the course of his career, specifically in Annapolis. He moved to the city in 1978 and immediately took an interest in the fishing community.

In 1980 he married the former Martha McWethy in a ceremony held at her family's property in Annapolis.

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A devout Catholic, Mr. Boynton expressed his faith in his art, said Judy Fox, a former student and local artist. He was "always trying to walk in the truth and light of God," and used light in his paintings to represent that, she said.

During his career, he was vocal about the parallels between his faith and his work. In 2009, he wrote: "I believe God has made me an artist for a purpose – that my art touches people. It is how I share my faith, painting the luminous effect of light on the natural world."

Mr. Boynton had work commissioned throughout Annapolis, most notably at City Hall, where three of his murals hang in the City Council chambers.

In 1995, he was commissioned to paint the murals to celebrate the city's 2008 tricentennial as the state capital. He spent almost a year consulting historians, drafting sketches and even asked residents to help recreate certain historical moments.

Last week Annapolis Mayor Michael Pantelides noted Mr. Boynton's death, saying in a statement that although the city lost an artist and a teacher, he was "glad our City Council Chamber remains home to some of his work and is a place that Mr. Boynton's talents can be appreciated and remembered by locals and visitors."

Mr. Boynton's murals created a deep sense of place, said Joann Vaughan, executive director of the Maryland Federation of Art. She said he used a range of color in ways that were different from other painters.

On his website, Boynton wrote that he was inspired by Claude Monet's choice to use colors "that corresponded to the natural spectrum of light."

"(People) respond to Lee's work because the color gives you a sense of what it felt like to be there," Ms. Vaughan said.

While Mr. Boynton's art had an impact on his community, she believes he had a deeper impact on the emerging artists he taught.

"Lee understood that not everyone would paint the way he painted," Ms. Vaughan said. "For Lee, it wasn't about his taste or lessons, it was about the artist and what works for them."

Mr. Boynton had a "great enthusiasm" for sharing his craft with other people, said his daughter, who is also an artist. She said for students, working with her father "was more than an art class, it was therapy. He helped them see the light, in a sense."

Mr. Boynton was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer in 2015, said his daughter. He went through several rounds of chemotherapy, and when the cancer came back, he turned to holistic medicine.

Margie Boynton said her father spent his final days at her mom's family's property — where the couple had been married. He died two days shy of their 36th wedding anniversary, she said.

A memorial service for Mr. Boynton will be held 2 p.m. May 14 at the Redemption House Life Center, 7489 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd., Glen Burnie.

In addition, Benfield Gallery in Severna Park will host a Lee Boynton Influence Show, June 11 to July 22, with works depicting his impact on local artists and the community.

In addition to his wife and his daughter, Mr. Boynton is survived by another daughter, Catherine Boynton; and a son, Jonathan Boynton, all of Annapolis.

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