Russell May was born in Floyd County in 1921 and died here in 1990. He attended Floyd County schools and as a young man he had a small sign-painting business in Prestonsburg. After serving in WWII, he married Eve Bennington and returned to Prestonsburg where they opened May Sign Company and May Paint and Wallpaper in 1951. They raised three children in Prestonsburg.
May began a second career in painting landscapes in oils in the 1960s. In the early 1970s he traveled to Austria where he lived and worked for several months studying oil painting with Austrian artist Gerhard Neswadba. By 1973 he had sold the sign shop and opened May Art Gallery in Prestonsburg.
May was a founding member of the Kentucky Heritage Artists. His original oil paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries and hang in private homes, restaurants, and state parks. In a fourteen-year period, from 1975 to 1989, he published 59 different limited edition prints, many of which are collectors’ items. He most loved to paint familiar scenes in Floyd County that were close to home and close to his heart, but he also painted the European mountains which he first saw as a young man during World War II.
After Mr. May’s death, his wife Eve continued to keep the gallery open, actively promoting Russell’s art and serving as the focal point for one of Eastern Kentucky’s most important and well-known artists.
Their children Kathy, Jane and Rusty have inherited their father’s love of Eastern Kentucky and will always consider it home. They plan to continue making their father’s art available to the public. Jane May Riehm lives in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Russ May II lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. Oldest daughter Kathy May lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. For more information or to purchase a print contact Kathy at 99 Wild Flower Drive, Charlottesville, VA 22911.
In Eastern Kentucky, prints may be purchased at the Floyd County Tourism Bureau on Court Street in the old post office building. Or send a personal message via Facebook to Kathy May.