(1900 - 1952)
John Atherton was active/lived in Vermont, California, Minnesota, New Brunswick / Canada. John Atherton is known for magic realist and surreal painting, illustration.
Biography from the Archives of askART
For John Atherton there was no line drawn between "fine" and
"commercial" art. He painted pictures for advertisers, magazine covers,
and galleries alike. All were characterized by his strong sense
of design and color.
Biography from the Archives of askART
Atherton was born in Brainerd, Minnesota,
studied at the College of the Pacific, and the California School of
Fine Arts in San Francisco. He first worked in a number of
West-Coast art studios learning the basics of his craft. When he
won a $500 first prize award in the annual exhibit of the Bohemian Club
in 1929, it financed his move to New York.
There, he began to do
illustrations for advertisers, including General Motors, Container
Corporation of America, and Shell Oil, and covers for Fortune, Holiday, and The Saturday Evening Post.
His first one-man show was held in Manhattan in 1936. In the "Artists for Victory" show in 1943, his painting, The Black Horse,
won the $3,000 fourth prize from among 14,000 entries. It now
hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. His work is also
represented at the Whitney Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Chicago Art
Institute, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, The Albright Art
Gallery in Buffalo, and the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford.
great avocation was fishing. He tied flies of original design
expertly, was a member of the Anglers' Club, and author of a book, The Fly and the Fish.
His death occurred while he was on a salmon-fishing trip in New
Brunswick, Canada. He was survived by his wife, Maxine Breeze.
Walt and Roger Reed , The Illustrator in America, 1880-1980; A Century of Illustration
Biography from Levis Fine Art
Born in Brainerd, MN on June 7, 1900, Atherton was educated at the College of the Pacific and at the CSFA. During the 1920s he lived in San Francisco. He did illustrations for Saturday Evening Post
(mostly regionalist works) and other periodicals, and painted landscapes in oil, pastel, and watercolor.
In 1929 he moved to NYC and ultimately to Arlington, Vermont. He died in New Brunswick, Canada while on a fishing trip on Sept. 15, 1952. His widow was artist Maxine Breeze.
Exh: Berkeley League of FA, 1924 (award), 1925; San Francisco Art Association, 1925-29; Bohemian Club, 1926 (award), 1928 (1st prize); Conn. WC Society, 1940; Artists for Victory, 1942; DeYoung Museum, 1943. In: MOMA; Whitney Museum; AIC; MM; Hartford Atheneum; PAFA.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"Who's Who in American Art
1938-53 (obituary).Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here
Being paired with the likes of John Steuart Curry and the Regionalist
movement, John Atherton paved his own artistic future by depicting nostalgic
scenes of Americana which highlighted his technical background as an
Biography from Brock & Co.
As early as 1942, art critics repudiated
Atherton's attempt to successfully exist as both an illustrator and a
serious artist, but the techniques and tools implemented in Atherton's
work as an illustrator were ultimately the same things which he
received high praise for in the world of fine art: his attention to
detail, dramatic use of the foreground, and his subtle use of color to
evoke a certain mood.
Atherton won the $3,000 fourth prize, among 14,000 entries, for his painting, The
Black Horse, which now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New
York. In the same year he participated in the landmark American
Realists and Magic Realists exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.
work is included in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum,
the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, The Albright Art Gallery in
Buffalo, and the Wadsworth Athenæum in Hartford.
Considered one of the Magic Realists, John Atherton was one a group of
artists who turned away from abstraction and sought inspiration from
the masters of the Italian Renaissance. This was classicism with
a twist, as his perfectly rendered figures inhabit a surreal world
fraught with emotional components. Indeed, Magical Realism can be
considered an off-shoot of surrealism, with the disconnect in the mood
rather than in the distorted object itself.
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Atherton had his
first solo exhibition at the Julian Levy Gallery in New York in 1938, a
gallery which was home to other avant garde artists including Joseph
Cornell and Max Ernst. He was included in the landmark exhibition
"American Realists and Magic Realists" at the Museum of Modern Art in
1943, where he exhibited alongside George Tooker and Jared
French. In the catalogue, Atherton expressed his belief that "in
the end the painting must be felt, not analyzed."
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