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 Elzy Jay (Bill) Bird  (1911 - 2001)

About: Elzy Jay (Bill) Bird
 

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Lived/Active: Utah      Known for: regionalist painting, etching, drawing, illustration

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Biography from Anthony's Fine Art:

E.J. Bird was born to Joseph Montgomery and Fanny Beutler Bird on 3 April 1911 in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Interested in art at an early age, Bird studied with artists Bessie Alice Bancroft, Cornelius Salisbury, James Taylor Harwood, and Jack S. Sears.  Bird's career portfolio includes works in oil, watercolor, etching, pastel, charcoal, pen and ink, and colored pencil.  As Director of the Utah Federal Art Project (1937-1942), E.J. Bird played an integral role in the establishment of the Utah State Art Center in Salt Lake City and the branch centers in Provo, Helper, and Price.  He was also a member of the Board of Director's of the Utah State Institute of Fine Arts during the 1930s. Bird remained the Director of the Utah Art Project until December 1942, when he was drafted into service with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  His battalion was involved in the invasion of Okinawa in 1945.  After his military service ended, Bird returned to Salt Lake City where he worked for various architectural firms for the next thirty-one years.  He maintained his association with the art community as a member of the Board of Directors of the Art Barn during the 1950s.  Since his retirement, Bird has authored and illustrated a number of children's books including Ten Tall Tales (1984), Chuck Wagon Stew (1988), The Blizzard of 1896 (1990), How Do Bears Sleep? (1990), and The Rainmakers (1993).

Over the years, E.J. Bird has held one-man exhibitions at the Denver Art Museum, the Santa Barbara Museum, the University of Utah, and the Intermountain Art Company. His works have been represented in exhibition at the New York World's Fair in 1939, "Artists West of the Mississippi" in Colorado Springs, and in most Utah art shows prior to World War II.  Examples of Bird's works can be found in a number of collections including the Utah State Institute of Fine Arts, Utah State Fair, The Springville Museum of Art, and in many Utah schools, public buildings, and private collections.  His contributions to Utah art, both as an artist and as Director of the Utah Federal Art Project, have significantly influenced the cultural and artistic development of the state.


Biography from Springville Museum of Art:
Elzy Jay "Bill" Bird is a Midvale, Utah, oil and opaque-watercolor painter, printmaker, designer, cartoonist, arts administrator, and architectural draftsman who was born in Salt Lake City.  He studied with Bessie Alice Bancroft at West Junior High, Salt Lake School District; with Cornelius Salisbury at West High School, Salt Lake City; with James T. Harwood and Jack Sears at the University of Utah (1929-31); at Chouinard School of Art, Los Angeles (1933).

He wrote and illustrated children’s books, including Ten Tall Tales (1985), and held positions as animation artist at Walt Disney Studios (1933); artist for several government projects—PWAP/FERA/WPA/FAP—(1933-1942); director for the Utah Federal Art Project (1937-42); member of the U.S. Army Engineers (1942-46); an architectural designer-draftsman for FFKR and other architects in Salt Lake City (1947-78).

In 1939, Bird’s critically acclaimed watercolor Takin’ Five was shown at the New York World’s Fair.  Then in 1940, Bird’s genre piece, The Gossips, an admirable example of American scene painting, was exhibited in a show of regionalist painters, with a Thomas Hart Benton on one side and a Grant Wood on the other.

In 1997, a series of pen-and-ink drawings of his youth were shown at the Springville Museum of Art and a major solo exhibition with color catalog in January.


Submitted by Anthony's Fine Art, Salt Lake City, Utah

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