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 Jack Jefferson  (1920 - 2000)

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Lived/Active: California/South Dakota      Known for: abstract-expressionist painter

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
July '86
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
An Abstract-Expressionist painter and influential art instructor, Jack Jefferson was active in the Bay Area of California, where he became exposed to his signature style as a student at the California School of Fine Arts. Of special influence was his teacher, Clyfford Still, and Jefferson's early work had many of the same characterisitics as Still's: "convulsive, organic forms; the stark, 'sort of anti-color,' the 'grays and black and reds', the intensity and 'fervor' and 'willingness to use something really raw and brutal' ". (Albright 49-50). Jefferson's painting also had many dark and shadowy forms, that overlapped and interlocked, suggesting pockets of deeper space.

Later his work evolved through greater simplifications with central images to small, mixed-media works on paper in the 1970s. Some of these paintings had geometrical shapes combined with free shapes and suggested movement, change and musical rhythms.

However, Jefferson disclaimed any systematic approach, saying in 1962: "For me each painting is such a unique experience that I can't worry about its degree of similarity to the last one. The only thing I know for sure is that certain colors, ideas or moods show up in my work at intervals---maybe two years, maybe ten years apart. Intensity interests me very much, and I hope this is a bond that will give continuity to the paintings." (Herskovic)

Jack jefferson was born December 2, 1920 in Lead, South Dakota and grew up there on the prairie. He studied from 1940 to 1942 at the University of Iowa in Iowa City and then served from 1942 to 1946 as a Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. From 1946 to 1950, he attended the California School of Fine Arts on the G.I. Bill.

After the war, Jefferson spent most of his adult life in San Francisco where from 1959 to 1978, he was an instructor at the California School of Fine Arts. There "his quietly forceful, uncompromising from of Abstract Expressionism, and his determined commitment to pursuing his own path, strongly influenced many younger San Francisco painters." (Albright 50)

Exhibition venues included the Whitney Museum of American Art, the De Young Memorial Museum and the Oakland Museum. In 2001, the San Jose Museum held a retrospective, "Jack Jefferson: A Memorial Exhibition".

Sources include:
Thomas Albright, "Art in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945-1980"
Marika Herskovic, "American Abstract Expressionism of the 1950s, An Illustrated Survey"

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Jack Jefferson is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Abstract Expressionism

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