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 Rex Slinkard  (1887 - 1918)

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Lived/Active: California/New York/Indiana      Known for: modernist figure painting, drawing

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Blickwell, Indiana, Rex Slinkard became a noted figure painter whose work ranged from the styles of social realism to symbolism.  He studied at the Art Students League in New York with Robert Henri, and from 1910 to 1913 taught at the Art Students League in Los Angeles.  There he was the most progressive force in Los Angeles as a painter and teacher, and his life drawing classes were innovative in that they were the first on the West Coast to incorporate the methods of Henri.

Later with softly colored, brushed-looking figures, Slinkard developed his own personal form of symbolic modernism, intended to create mood rather than suggest any specific action.  He revered the Italian Renaissance artists Botticelli and Giotto for the way they treated figures. In his letters, which are now in the Stanford Museum, he recorded his feelings: "It's wonderful to work.  To work with the inside of oneself....Imagination---that's the one thing I can paint with. I am lost without it" (California Art by Moure).

In 1913, he withdrew from the art world to work on his father's ranch in Newhall, and in 1916, entered World War I.  But he died two years later of influenza while waiting for a troop ship to take him to Europe.

Artists in California, 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes
California Art: 450 Years of Painting by Nancy Moure

Biography from Spencer Jon Helfen Fine Arts:
Rex Slinkard was born in Bickwell, Indiana, in 1887, and moved to the Los Angeles area as a child.  As a promising student at the Art Students League of Los Angeles, he received a scholarship to study in New York under the famed painter Robert Henri.  While in New York from 1908 to 1910, Slinkard was a roommate of George Bellows.

Returning to Los Angeles in 1910, Slinkard taught at the Art Students League, acting as director until 1913.  One of his students was Nicholas Brigante, and together Slinkard and Brigante also studied poetry, literature and artistic philosophy.  In 1910 he exhibited his New York paintings at Los Angeles’s Blanchard Gallery, and critic Antony Anderson credited him with “a skill that does not fall short of the masterly.”

After 1913, Slinkard spent time at his father’s ranch in the nearby Saugus-Newhall area, where he worked both on ranch duties and his painting.  It was at the Saugus ranch that Slinkard broke away from traditional influences and developed his highly individualized painting style, creating the many canvases that would come to define him as an artist.

After the outbreak of World War I, Slinkard enlisted in the Army in 1916.  He was awaiting a troop transport to Europe when he died of influenza in New York in October of 1918.  A memorial exhibition of Slinkard’s work took place at the Los Angeles Museum in 1919, displaying the paintings that were found at the ranch in Saugus after his death, as well as war-time drawings done during his period in the service.  The catalog of the exhibition contained an eloquent appreciation by Marsden Hartley.

Following the Los Angeles show, memorial exhibitions of Slinkard’s paintings were held both at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco and the Knoedler Gallery in New York; and his artworks were included in the First Exhibition of the Group of Independent Artists of Los Angeles in 1923.  These posthumous exhibitions prompted even more interest in and discussion of Slinkard’s work nationwide, and a second Los Angeles Museum memorial exhibition was held in 1929.

In 1955, a collection of Slinkard’s paintings, representing the majority of his artistic output, was bequeathed to Stanford University and was exhibited there often through the early 1960s.  Slinkard’s work also was included in the show “Arts of Southern California XIV: Early Moderns” at the Long Beach Museum of Art in 1964.

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