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©2015-19 Jonathan Art Foundation

Jack Wilkinson Smith (1873-1949)

Jack Wilkinson Smith no doubt inherited his artistic ability from his father, who painted the decorations in the New York State Capitol Building in Albany. Smith attended the Art Institute of Chicago, and in his early career, turned to commercial art jobs to earn his living. He painted signs and theater scenes in Chicago and Lexington, Kentucky, and worked as a staff illustrator on the Cincinnati Enquirer. His front line sketches of the Spanish-American War in 1898 brought him national acclaim.

After viewing landscapes by William Wendt in Chicago, he began experimenting with watercolors. In 1906, lured by Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce promotions, Smith visited California to see the West whose scenes he had been painting from imagination. In California, Smith turned to oil painting, and after 1912 traveled widely throughout the state.  

For many years he maintained a studio in Alhambra in an area called "Artist's Alley," where several top artists of Western subject mattter lived. After World War I, when local practitioners of modernist styles such as Post-Impressionism began challenging conservatives, he organized the Biltmore Salon in 1923, a non-profit to exhibit and sell top-level artists who painted traditional Western scenes.

In 1926 Smith was inducted as the Jonathan Club's first Artist Life Member, a membership granted in trade for art to fill the empty walls of the new Club building on 545 South Figueroa Street. Three of his paintings are some of the Club's earliest art acquisitions.

Source: Art at the Jonathan Club, Jonathan Art Foundation