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The Fuller Building, 41 East 57th Street, 9th Floor New York City, NY 10022 United States 212.535.8810
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$ 40,000

S.E.R.A.

Period 1920-1949
Materials Tempera on panel
Dimensions
W. 9.5 in; H. 14.75 in;
W. 24.13 cm; H. 37.47 cm;
Condition Excellent.
Creation Date 1934
Description Signed and inscribed (at lower center): S.E.R.A. / Everett Gee Jackson
Genre image

S.E.R.A. stands for: State Emergency Relief Association, a program of Roosevelt's New Deal.

Everett Gee Jackson was an exceptional painter whose work served as the first major conduit for the introduction of Mexican modernism into American art. Over a long career, Jackson produced images in a modern idiom that was accessible, but never sentimental. While Jackson’s meticulous understanding of the harmonies of form and color that create beauty in the eye of the beholder was unerring, it did not lead him on a path to abstraction. The enduring quality of Jackson’s work lies in the creative synergy of technique with engaging subject matter. Jackson’s work offers a window into his East Texas boyhood, the excitement of post-revolutionary Mexico, and the promise of the American West Coast as he lived it in San Diego.

Everett Jackson was born in Mexia, Texas. After high school, he enrolled at Texas A & M and planned to study architecture. A drawing instructor, struck by Jackson’s natural artistic ability, urged him to develop that talent. In 1921, Jackson went to the Art Institute of Chicago, where he learned to paint in the academically ascendant style there, Impressionism. Motivated by a stubborn case of strep throat, Jackson left wintry Chicago in December 1922 and returned to Texas. In his absence, Mexia had transformed from a sleepy farm community of about thirty-five hundred people to an oil boomtown, with thirty-five thousand people and a stint of martial law. Jackson looked elsewhere. An advertisement for The San Diego Academy of Art caught his eye and he decided to combine art instruction with California sunshine. In 1923, Jackson returned to Texas, where he had arranged to meet a fellow art student from the Art Institute, Lowell D. Houser (1902–1971), to travel to the Sabinas Mountains in Mexico, just across the Texas-Mexico border. Jackson’s first trip to Mexico, though brief, was decisive.

Jackson and Houser returned to Mexico later in 1923 and remained there until 1927. The two young American artists moved around, always seeking small, remote, scenic, authentic, and—they hoped—undiscovered painting locales. They rented houses in Chapala and Ajijic, both small villages on the shore of Lake Chapala in the State of Jalisco in central Mexico, and in Guanajuato in adjacent Guanajuato State. At Houser’s urging, they also stopped briefly in Mexico City for a quick look at the already renowned murals in public buildings there.

In November 1926, Jackson left Chapala for Coyoacán, then a small historic suburb and now a part of Mexico City. While Jackson returned to Texas to marry, Houser had met Anita Brenner (1905–1974), who offered him work as an archeology expedition artist. Brenner was the cultural fulcrum of an international community of young artists and intellectuals based in Mexico City. A journalist and art critic, Brenner became a good friend of the Jacksons. Brenner’s presence attracted a steady stream of visitors to the Jackson household, including the artists Jean Charlot (1898–1979) and José Clemente Orozco (1883–1949). Charlot in particular, exerted an enormous influence. Of French and Mexican parentage, he learned true fresco technique in Paris and returned to Mexico where he worked alongside Diego Rivera (1886–1957). Charlot critiqued the work of Jackson and Houser.

In early spring of 1927, at Brenner’s urging, the Jacksons left Cocoacán for Tehuantepec, the ancient capital of the Zapotec Indians on the Tehuantepec Isthmus on the Pacific coast of southern Mexico. Two weeks after they arrived, Jackson fell ill with what was later diagnosed as malaria and returned to Texas. The year that Jackson spent recovering in Texas proved a period of energetic painting. Concentrating on Texas and Mexican subjects, Jackson also actively engaged in career building, sending his work to competitions and exhibitions. In 1928, the Jacksons moved to San Diego. Though Jackson was offered a faculty position in Texas, he chose to remain in San Diego, a decision whose wisdom was confirmed in 1930 when Jackson accepted an appointment at San Diego State College. The course of his life was set. After he took up his teaching position in San Diego, Jackson appears to have given up the pursuit of a national reputation.

Everett Jackson made art out of the shapes, forms, and colors of the life he lived. In Mexico and in Texas, that art often entered into a dialogue with recent experience. In San Diego, Jackson found inspiration in the distinctive culture that centered on the port city. He also continued to explore Mexico and made frequent short trips to nearby Baja California, a rich source of landscape inspiration. Jackson also clearly enjoyed painting figures. He painted his wife and daughter, and himself, all in a fairly straightforward manner. Most commonly his figure paintings present classically infused images in carefully composed settings with natural images for design props.

Jackson’s work eludes easy labels. Certainly at the time he forsook Impressionism for Mexican modernism, there is no doubt of the direct influence of the Mexican modernists and of Diego Rivera in particular. The Mexican influence, however, mediated with time, and as befits a cosmopolitan artist, a variety of other labels and tendencies can be seen reflected in Jackson’s art. He has been mentioned in the context of realism and as the leader of a school of San Diego regionalism. In his devotion to blocks of color, one can find echoes of the American neo-classicism of John Singleton Copley, while the stiffness and geometric quality of some of his figures bring to mind Pablo Picasso’s neo-classical figures and cubism. All of this is a reminder that as non-objective art increasingly gained ascendancy as the defining modern style, there remained a group of artists who were equally modern and equally concerned with formal qualities in their art without ever giving up understandable subject matter.
Styles / Movements Modernism
Dealer Reference Number APG 20861D.010
Incollect Reference Number 189535
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