Robert Shillady, “Triumph of Irrational Dogma,” triptych.

Ellsworth Courthouse Gallery Fine Art will present an exhibition of Robert Shillady’s masterful historical trilogy, a series of paintings he has spent the past eight years creating.

The trilogy references the work of other artists, whether historical or contemporary, and this is the first time all three paintings have been on view together.

Shillady recently completed the third painting in the series, “Triumph of Irrational Dogma” (2022), an impressive 53×93 triptych that joins “Icons of the Spiritually Certain” (2015) and “The End of Dada?” (2012).

In conjunction with the show, Courthouse Gallery will host an artist talk with Shillady at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 21. The talk is free and open to the public, and the paintings will be on view at the Gallery though Oct. 15.

“Triumph of Irrational Dogma,” Shillady’s third painting, is a triptych that includes more than 30 images of historical references, altered for light and perspective, within a composition incorporating six landscapes he painted in Maine.

“Much as Manet, Jake and Dino Chapman, and Yue Minjun have adapted artwork from the past to address their own realities, in this triptych I attempted to point out the foibles, the irrationality and the cruelty that have plagued mankind today, and since the beginning of civilization,” Shillady says. “Artists reflecting the zeitgeist of their age have addressed them, over and over.”

“Icons of the Spiritually Certain?” addresses the cacophony of a world with a history of different faiths. All of them preach peace and harmony among their followers and yet their adherents sometimes interact like Neo Rauch’s stick fighters, who have been altered in Shillday’s version to represent L. Ron Hubbard, inventor of Scientology, and Christopher Hitchens, writer and atheist philosopher. The painting also includes Katahdin, “the greatest of mountains,” sacred to the Penobscots, as well as a landscape he did of Black Brook in Brooklin.

“The End of Dada?” was inspired by a survey of artists, curators and critics, a majority of whom believed Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain was the most influential artwork of the 20th century. Shillady’s painting includes not only Duchamp himself and artworks by his contemporaries, but work by artists in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries who were influenced by the freedom from academic and cultural restraint, which the early Dadaists engendered. The painting includes Shillady’s version of Tom Curry’s Chatto Island, as well as an image of Curry done up in the guise of a Kara Walker silhouette figure.

Shillady studied silkscreen with Anne Ballou at the deCordova Museum School in 1978, and holds a BFA from Boston University School of Fine Arts. Shillady’s work has been exhibited widely since 1974 and has appeared in numerous juried exhibitions, including the Portland Museum of Art Biennial in 2005, 2007 and 2011. His work has also appeared in numerous reviews and publications, including, Paintings of Maine: A New Collection, a book by Carl Little. Shillady and his wife author Ellen Booraem live in Brooklin.

Courthouse Gallery is at 6 Court St. in Ellsworth. For hours or more information, call 667-6611, or visit

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