BIO - James Francis Gill

 

Retrospectives of an artist’s career usually follow a pattern, beginning with a formative period of student work and obscurity, followed by the productive middle period in which the artist finds his signature style, and concludes with a late period that often represents a slight tweaking of styles previously explored in the middle, mature phase.

 

In Gill’s case, that scenario has been turned on its head! He had a brilliant beginning, successfully adapting his influences in an original way. His middle period was a time of searching and introspection: he explored total abstraction, photo-realism and sculpture. Taking the best from each period Gill has created a style all his own. Currently this octogenarian has reinvented himself, his work is better than ever!

 

James Francis Gill was born in Tahoka, Texas in 1934. He attended San Angelo High School. After a tour of duty with the marines, he attended San Angelo College before completing his formal education at the University of Texas in Austin.

 

From 1956-1960 Gill studied architecture and worked as an architectural designer in Midland, TX and Odessa, TX. From 1960-1961 he studied at University of Texas, Austin, TX on a painting scholarship.

 

He left Texas in 1962 and moved to Los Angeles, California. The support he received from his first dealer, the legendary Felix Landau, was pivotal to Gill’s early entrance into important private and public collections. Felix Landau was one of the most respected art dealers with galleries on the West Coast and the East Coast at that time.

 

Stars of film and music, art lovers and businesspeople collected artworks of James Francis Gill in the 1960s. Gill was commissioned to paint the covers of well known print media such as the TIME magazine. Hollywood stars like John Wayne and Tony Curtis requested to be painted by him.


During his stay in Los Angeles, paintings and drawings were finding their way into the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, as well as many West Coast museums. Major national corporations, such as the Mead Corporation and Time-Life Corporation, were also purchasing his paintings for their collections.


1962 the Museum of Modern Art, New York, acquired the Marilyn Triptych, shortly after the death of Marilyn Monroe. It remains in their permanent collection. The Marilyn Triptych is a pivotal work in the complete works of James Francis Gill.

Gill in front of his Marilyn Triptych, 1962
Gill in front of his Marilyn Triptych, 1962

 

 “Art is always a part of who you are. It’s your perception. It’s where you’ve been. You never leave that. If you’re a cowboy, you are

always a cowboy.”


In 1965, Gill taught at the University of Idaho, Moscow, ID, in 1969 at the University of California, Irvine, CA. In 1970, he was offered a visiting professorship at the University of Oregon in Eugene, OR.


In 1965, in the Museum of Modern Art, NY, Gill's drawing "Laughing Women in Cars and Close-up" was exhibited between drawings of Picasso and Odilon Redon.

 

1966 Gill was asked by the Navy to join the 'Navy Art Cooperation and Liaison program', recording significant contemporary events for public display. For that puropse, he was invited on board the first U.S.S. Enterprise

 

In 1967 along with artists such as Warhol, Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg and Edward Hopper, gill was chosen to represent the United States in Brazil at ‘Sao Paulo 9 Biennale’. This exhibition led to Gills breakthrough in the international art world. From that time his works have been included in the permanent collections of more international major museums.

 

Now, Gill was at the peak of his career, and very popular in the Pop Art scene. But many contemporaries saw a profound and complex sense in his works, expressing more than Pop Art originally intended.

 

Surprisingly, in 1972 Gill went into a self-imposed exile, in the expectation of being able to maintain a kind of long-distance relationship with the art scene. He wanted to develop his artistic expression, without the constraints of the material world. Gill never stopped painting, but didn´t show his works to the public until the late 90's.

 

Around 1987, inspired by his work with computers in architectural drafting, Gill started using the computers as a drawing tool in his art.

 

In 1997 his life changed dramatically when he received a call from David McCarthy who was writing an article for the 'art magazine of the Smithsonian American Art Museum'. This interview marked the beginning of his rediscovery.

 

In 2005, a retrospective exhibition was held in his hometown of San Angelo, TX at the Museum of Fine Arts.

 

Around 2007, Gill's late creative phase began, using his own unique combination of abstract and portraiture. In contrast to the dominance of political themes in his early works, Gill increases his focus on the presentation of classic Pop Art icons, such as Marilyn Monroe, Liz Taylor, John Wayne and Paul Newman.

 

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