James J. Hennessey earned his undergraduate degree at Illinois Wesleyan University and a graduate degree at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he studied with Richard Diebenkorn, Wendell Black, and Roland Reiss. Hennessey’s first teaching position was at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, where he was hired in 1960.
In 1962, one of Hennessey’s paintings was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s (MOMA) exhibition, “Recent Painting U.S.A., The Figure”. The show was a juried exhibit that subsequently toured the country after the New York opening. In the same year, the American Academy in Rome, Italy awarded Hennessey “The Rome Prize”. As a result, he was in residence for two years in Rome and exhibited in several galleries both in Rome and Milan.
In 1965 Hennessey joined the faculty of MICA, where he taught until he retired in 2002. During this time he accrued an extensive exhibition record with works shown in New York at the Marilyn Pearl Gallery, the Boris Mirski and Alpha Galleries in Boston, and at the Pensler Galleries in Washington, DC, among others. He directed programs for students, faculty, and professional artists in Italy and France, including the MICA Italian Program in Sorrento, Italy, and the Alfred and Trafford Klots Residency Program in Rochefort-en-Terre, France. His paintings continue to be fueled by his extensive European experiences.
James Hennessey maintains an active studio in downtown Baltimore, Maryland.