Arts Galleries

Grovewood Gallery Features Handpainted Maps by Artist Michael Francis Reagan

Lower Keys. Big Pine to Key West. Michael Francis Reagan, artist

Grovewood Gallery presents The Last Mapmaker, an exhibition of handpainted maps by artist Michael Francis Reagan. The exhibition opens on Saturday, July 13, and runs through September 15.

“My maps are all hand-painted and hand-lettered, no computers involved, no Photoshop, no AI ever,” says Reagan. “When I begin to paint a map, no matter where in the world it is, my goal is to create a work of art that does more than just represent accurate delineations of geography. Ptolemy, one of the earliest mapmakers and one of my influences, defined this as chorography: ‘to paint a true likeness and not merely give exact position and size.’ So, I’ve always thought of myself in this way as a map artist or chorographer, not a cartographer.”

North Carolina Coast. Michael Francis Raegan, artist

Reagan grew up in a military family that moved around the world, and after serving in the Navy as a plane captain on the USS Enterprise, he moved to San Francisco, where he worked as a sidewalk chalk artist. He then spent time traveling in the Pacific and Caribbean islands before earning an MFA in fine art painting from the University of Arkansas and working as a graphic designer and textbook illustrator with the Peace Corps in the Ivory Coast. He now lives with his wife Christine, a creative weaver, in Western North Carolina.

“I’m proudest of the hundreds of maps I’ve painted over my fifty-year career for wildlife and land conservation organizations like the Nature Conservancy, National Audubon Society, National Park Service, Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation and many others,” he says. “I’ve also painted many war maps over the years, representing WWII, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza, and although these maps illustrated difficult stories, I hope it helped educate readers to those war-torn places.” More than 200 of Reagan’s maps are slated to become part of the permanent collection at The Library of Congress.

Connemara, West Ireland. Michael Francis Reagan, artist

Reagan says he starts creating a map not with boundaries or details about the place but from the feeling of it. “The colors of the land, the sea, the rivers, the people, the culture,” he says. “The inspiration is also the watercolor paint itself, the very act of putting paint on white paper, beautiful blues of the Caribbean, greens of the Amazon, just the flow of watercolor across the paper.”

He is called The Last Mapmaker because of the rise of digital art in map creation. “It is the human hand that makes a map or any painting a work of art,” he says. “Art created by humans has flaws and blemishes, beautiful fault lines. Chances are there will not be another map artist in this computer-driven digital world that will create this many hand-painted maps again.”

Grovewood Village is located at 111 Grovewood Road, adjacent to and below the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville. Gallery hours are Monday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free parking is available onsite. To learn more, visit or call 828.214.7768.

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