Milo Floyd Russell was known for his dedication to perfecting portraits throughout his expansive painting career. He occasionally painted landscapes but he would soon return to his portraits of an imagined subject with soft, round, brown eyes with often flat brown hair.
Though many in the Richmond area would show up to his art shows, he was known not to attend them. “He didn’t want to talk about his work. Most people didn’t expect him to show up,” said Bill Fulton, a former student of Mr. Russell’s. “He wasn’t in it for the fame and glory. ... He wanted his work to stand alone. He didn’t want to explain why he did what he did.”
He taught at VCU from 1958 until his retirement in 1985 then returned as professor emeritus and taught painting classes well into his 80s.
Mr. Russell grew up in British Columbia in Canada with his grandmother after his parents abandoned him as a toddler. As a teenager during the Great Depression, he traveled by train to various cities in search of work, including picking fruit in California fields.
He painted as a child and decided early on he would always do what he loved. He earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Virginia Commonwealth University (then Richmond Professional Institute) in 1954 and his master’s degree in education at the University of Virginia in 1957 before beginning his teaching career at his alma mater a year later in the painting and later printmaking department.