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 Robert Edward Jensen  (1922 - 1984)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: marine-seaport views, townscape

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Ad Code: 4
Robert Edward Jensen
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following biography, submitted April 2004, is from Terry Jack Jensen, son of the artist.

My father was born on December 15, 1922 in San Francisco, California. His parents were Wilfred Jensen and Alice I. Jensen. My father had two brothers; Jack E. Jensen and an older brother Wilfred (Bill) Jensen. Jack became a gifted athlete, All American College football and baseball player. Jackie played for the Yankees and Red Sox (MVP 1958). Bill was a business man. The family moved to Oakland when my father was in elementary school.

The Depression came along, and the family business (butcher shop) went out of business. Wilfred senior left the family and did not return until after WWII. Hard times hit the family hunger and malnutrition. Older brother Bill was sent to live with an aunt to make food stretch further. My father at the age of nine contracted TB and nearly died. At the age of 12 he demonstrated his gifted ability to draw and paint by winning a city-wide art contest. The family lived by the Oakland Embarcadero/waterfront, an area of Oakland that is very old and has a character all to itself.

These images of that area my father knew intimately and inspired his artwork. He painted ships, seamen, tug boats (his grandfather was a Danish immigrant tug boat skipper), piers, barges, moorings, fishing villages and scenes around SF Bay. His close relationship with these environments enabled him to interpret them with their authentic character. He was passionate about his art, and he knew he was very focused on fine art and never succumbed to producing "pot boilers" no matter how poor we were.

My father was in the Navy during WWII in the South Pacific. After WWII he returned to Oakland, married my mother Mary Lou, and used the GI Bill to attend The California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC). While at CCAC he gained a mentor, Harold Gretzner (CCAC teacher), who was a member of the West Coast impressionist watercolor movement. Harold taught him everything he knew, and from this my father developed his signature style and applied it to his unique subject matter.

My father would often go on painting excursions with Harold and other West Coast movement artists such as Ralph Baker and Jade Fong. He also had ties with the artist community in Carmel, CA and often painted with Joe Attaide. Most of my father's work was done in his studio in order to control the variables that effect watercolor painting (heat, light, evaporation. etc.).

My father completed his BFA, MFA and California teaching credential at CCAC. He then began teaching art in the Oakland public schools. Because of his past experience with poverty, he would often take talented poor students and give them private lessons at his home studio. One of his students was a Navajo Indian boy, Larry Bird, who became the director of an Indian art institute in NM or AZ.

The largest collection of Jensen paintings on permanent exhibit is at the Waterfront Hotel in Jack London Square in Oakland, not far from where he grew-up. There are 70-80 paintings on display in the lobby, hallways, offices and rooms. My father was also a member of the Society of Western Artists, eventually becoming an art competition judge for the SWA.

During the 1960 -1970 he experimented with different painting techniques and media but returned to the watercolor movement and did some of his best work. CCAC has a painting titled, "The Glenn" in its permanent collection which is one of his best pieces and of course I have some of his best work to remember him by.

Robert E. Jensen died January 11, 1984 in Vallejo, California.

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