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In Memory of Robert Fichter

Published June 15, 2023

Florida State University, especially the Department of Art, is saddened to announce the passing of Emeritus Professor in Art Robert Fichter.

As Published in Tallahassee Democrat, Posted online on June 12, 2023:

Robert Whitten Fichter, 83, died on June 10, 2023, at his home in Tallahassee, Florida. Robert was born December 30, 1939, in Fort Myers, Florida, to Olive Vern Whitten Fichter and James Nicholas Fichter.

In his youth he attended P.K. Yonge Laboratory School, in Gainesville, Florida; it was considered to be an avant-garde institution based on John Dewey principles and it was appropriate for Robert, who was always politically interested and active in high school and throughout his life, his activism being reflected in much of his art.

After high school he attended Auburn University, then enrolled at the University of Florida from which he graduated in 1963 with a BFA in Art. A major influence there was his teacher and colleague Jerry Uelsmann. Robert subsequently attended Indiana University, from which he graduated with an MFA in Art in 1966.

In the early 1960s he worked for Nathan Lyons, director of the George Eastman Museum. Lyons’ concept of photography as images which could be manipulated and altered by various artistic methods was a significant insight in Robert’s evolution into what he referred to as an image maker, interested in multi-media techniques and alternative photographic processes. Later on in his professional life he expanded his genres and explored, often in combination, his talents in printmaking, painting, drawing and collage techniques. As he commented, “I mix my magics.”

In 1967, Fichter met Robert Heinecken, a major force in experimental photography and alternative processes, and their relationship resulted in Fichter joining Heinecken on the faculty at UCLA, 1968-72.

In 1972, Robert came back to Florida and joined the faculty of Florida State University. He returned for one year to UCLA as a visiting professor in 1976.

In addition to his Florida State University activities, Robert had numerous exhibitions at other universities, museums and various professional venues. His first one-person show in New York City was in 1974 at the Light Gallery. In 1981 his work was shown at The Biennial Exhibition of the Whitney American Museum of Art.

In 1982 a retrospective of Robert’s work, including 183 prints, drawings, paintings, and photographic images in various media, was held at the George Eastman Museum. The Robert Freidus Gallery (Fichter’s gallery at that time) collaborated on the project. It was conceived and developed by Robert Sobieszek a director at the museum. The exhibition also later toured to other venues and a book, PHOTOGRAPHY AND OTHER QUESTIONS, soon followed. It was edited and written with a text by Sobieszek. Fichter was cited as a “highly influential and political American artist of the last two decades.”

Robert retired from Florida state University in 2006, as a much awarded and valued Professor, later honored as Professor Emeritus.

His final show, an exhibition of works created between 1962 and 2006, was held at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, the institution holds Robert’s archives.

In the last decades of his life, he worked with his wife Nancy, in the development and direction of the Lillian E. Smith Center, a campus of Piedmont University, in north Georgia. The LES Center extends the legacy of civil rights activist and writer, Lillian E. Smith, and serves to support and expand the arts and social justice through its residency program and other initiatives.

Robert Fichter was predeceased by his parents and his sister Jeannette (John Frandsen).

He is survived by his wife of 41 years, Nancy Smith Fichter; his nieces Margaret Bearss (Clyde), Susan Cochran (John), and Liz Holden; his brother-in-law John Frandsen; and numerous grand nieces, nephews, and cousins in his extended family.

Appreciation is extended to the many friends who offered support during Robert’s illnesses and final days. Special gratitude is expressed to Big Bend Hospice for its fine and sensitive attention to the needs of Robert and his family and to Home Instead for its capable and consistent service. Special thanks are given to Robert’s friends and caregivers, Mary Beth Ervin, Katya Cantilla-White, and Stephanie Heyward.

How to Honor Robert Fichter

FSU College of Fine Arts will host a memorial service in honor of Robert Fichter on Sunday, September 17 at 2p.m. in Montgomery Hall at 130 Collegiate Loop, Tallahassee, FL. A light reception will follow in the lobby. Please RSVP and direct any questions to

Share your memories and photos with Nancy Smith Fichter and the FSU Department of Art here. Note that your memories and photos may be shared publicly unless you state otherwise.

Gifts in his honor should be directed to the FSU Foundation, in support of the FSU Department of Art or School of Dance at, or to the Lilian E. Smith Center at