Much of the following biographical information has been provided in May of 2006 by Christopher Caracci, one-time neighbor of the artist. This information was obtained from the artist while still living. Source for the story about the Roosevelts is from the book Nebraska Post Office Murals by Robert Puschendorf.
John Tazewell Robertson
(aka, John T. Robertson, Tazewell Robertson)
Born: August 8, 1905 in New York City
As a boy, he traveled west and was a cadet at the New Mexico Military Institute. In the 1920s, after returning to the east coast, he completed a fellowship with the Tiffany Foundation under the tutelage of Louis Comfort Tiffany and began painting scenes from burlesque in New York City.
In the 1930s and 40s, he joined the P.W.A.P. program (a group of artists the federal government hired to "paint America" during the great depression), and became well-known for the Art Deco murals he painted throughout the United States in federal buildings (including post offices in Kentucky and Nashville, TN ), the Bronx Zoo, and Cincinnati's Union Terminal.
He was known to photograph the local residents of the area where he was working on murals, so as to provide authenticity to his works. In Nebraska, he painted a mural at the Hunt Club of Omaha, and he was scorned by the federal government for painting President Herbert Hoover waving a rubber chicken over his head in a mural at the Omaha Federal building. His mural studies were described by Thomas Kimball, Nebraska architect, as "bad art", but the artist found vindication. In a subsequent exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery, President and Mrs. Franklin Roosevelt chose his painting to hang in the White House.
He later traveled to Iowa, working with Grant Wood on murals at the Des Moines Public Library, and in Iowa City. He retired to Umatilla, Florida and continued to paint oils on canvas, primarily Florida landscapes, until his death.
Died: 1989 in Umatilla, Florida
Studied: Art Students League, NYC; Tiffany Foundation, with Louis Comfort Tiffany; Thomas Hart Benton; John Curry; John Sloan; Gifford Beal; William McNulty; Richard Lahey; Jean Charlot; Harry Wickey
New Mexico Military Institute; New York School of Fine and Industrial Arts
Museum of Modern Art, New York City
Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC
In the Public Collections of:
Ames University (Ames, Iowa)
University of Iowa (Iowa City, Iowa)
University of Nebraska (Omaha, Nebraska)
Joslyn Memorial Art Museum (Omaha, Nebraska)
In the Private Collections of:
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
James Woolworth Donohue