Gail Jeffer (1944-2010)
She was born in Wyckoff New Jersey on May 8, 1944, just one year before the celebrated end of WWII. Her childhood was filled with pleasant experiences that are related to her upbringing in this prosperous upper middle class community. Wyckoff is part of township of Bergen County New Jersey. It is located just outside of New York City. She was never far from the activities that took place at one of the world’s foremost cultural Mecca’s. Her father, a successful architect went to great lengths to encourage his daughters artistic development. The fledging artist was sixteen when she received her first commission to paint a group of horses. The request came from one of her fathers top clients. The sale of the work went far to bolster her self esteem. More importantly it helped to encourage her professionalism.
During her final high school years she produced a variety of art works to be included in her portfolio.
After her graduation the young artist submitted samples of her art to a review board. Jeffers was admitted after various considerations .She became a full time student at the Ridgewood Institute of Art in New Jersey. She spent long hours honing her skills. As she matured she applied her newly learned techniques and methods as a tool to develop her animal subjects. Progressively, the approach to her subject matter became more sophisticated.
Over the years the artist was gaining a measure of success, yet she maintained a close relationship with her former teacher Arthur F Maynard (1920-1991). Maynard was influenced by his mentor Frank V Dumond (1865-1951). Mr. Maynard was a previous teacher at the ASL. He was the founder of The Ridgewood Art Institute. He coached his students in the methods and philosophies that were learned from Dumond at the Art Student League in New York.
Jeffers was finding her own directions .When starting a new work she would select different animals as her feature subject. She succeeded to capture the form and attitude of the various creatures. Usually she would try to paint the chosen subject in its natural habitat. At one point Jeffers remodeled an old farm house located in the rural mountains of New Jersey. She assembled a group of animals to occupy the grounds. Despite warnings from local game wardens, Gail lived with a very large Montana Mountain Lion that she affectionately named Sabrina.
Jeffer was appointed in 1991 as the official artist of the US Equestrian Team. One of her best equine paintings was selected as a poster image for the team’s appearance at the Summer Olympics in Barcelona Spain.
Her subjects are carefully observed and well drawn. She made it a habit to observe her models first hand. She was much like a contemporized Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899) she made many trips to the various zoos. She was constantly making sketches or taking photos. Many of her boldly executed canvasses garnered prizes and awards. She was popular with many animal groups. She was adept at rendering race horses, giraffes, zebras, cheetahs along with a mélange of other species.
This adventurous female artist was invited to Zimbabwe formerly Rhodesia, by invitation of the (Wildlife & Habitat Artist Trust. in Zimbabwe)…Jeffer endured a number of hardships related to surviving in the area for over two months. After a long flight she was guided to a vast tract of untamed wilderness. Gail was situated on a Buffalo Range near Gonarezhou National Park. Her sparse accommodations included a round hut complete with a straw roof along with minimal bathroom facilities. “In the early morning hungry lions and leopards were on the prowl.” She adapted well to the primitive habitat. At this point a lifelong dream was realized. She was able to set her pallet and excitedly paint in the wilds of Africa
Written and compiled by Jim Kieley Woodbury, Connecticut 08/09/09
Information gathered from:
Werner L Schmidt NY. 08/02/09
Interview with Gail Jeffer 08/03/09