James Gill

San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts

Accession no: 2006.3.1 Type of work: Drawing
Artist/creator: James Gill
Born: 1934

Artist biography: James Francis Gill was born in Tahoka, Texas in 1934 and grew up in San Angelo, Texas. His mother, an interior decorator and entrepreneur, encouraged her son to have an artistic interest. When Gill was around 10 years old, his mother painted a wooden floor in the family home in the style of Jackson Pollock. In high school, Gill and some friends started a rodeo club to pursue their first dream of being cowboys. From1953 to1956, Gill served in the United States Marines. After leaving the Marines, he earned his living as an architect/illustrator. This was a curious beginning for an artist about to explode onto the pop art scene. In the summer of 1962, Gill traveled to Los Angeles with a series of paintings under his arm titled "Women in Cars". Upon his arrival in L.A., Gill walked in the Felix Landau Gallery. Landau agreed to represent Gill on the spot, something he had never done before. By November, 1962 Gill had achieved international acclaim when his "Marilyn Triptych" (a 3-panel painting of Marilyn Monroe) was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art and featured in Life Magazine. Indeed, Gill's "Marilyn" study actually preceded Warhol's more famous study of the tragic screen legend. 1965 Gill was guest artist to teach painting at the University of Idaho. His works of art appeared oppressive and dark in shade of color and mood in these years. Main topic was social and political events on the day like the Vietnam War. A serial of anti-war paintings featured civilians and military leaders. The playwright William Inge described the men in these paintings as “figures of high public reputation, momentarily caught in some nefarious act that will probably destroy their political or professional reputations.” In the fifties and sixties a new school of artists emerged that added “Pop Art” to our lexicon. Among them was James Gill. Routinely exhibited alongside acclaimed artists such as Edward Hopper, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, James Gill experienced a rapid ascent in the art world; major museums such as New York’s Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum and the Smithsonian Institute added his works to their collections. Then, at the height of his success, he walked away – becoming a legend, an icon, in the Pop Art world. Not wishing to further succumb to the “me” generation, Gill joined a small group of artists, poets and writers to form an artist’s colony on the California/Oregon border, far from the materialistic world. He continued to work and expand his artistic vision, taking the Pop Art practice of appropriating commercial photo-derived imagery as source material and applying the latest in technology to develop his current unique process. By running a raw canvas through an ink-jet printer he re-creates an image he then manipulates with a clear gel medium, applying it as one would paint with regular pigment, to draw the inks up into the gel, giving the same effect as colored acrylics – only with colors dramatically more vibrant than pre-colored medium. Gill can then paint or glaze over this piece until it thoroughly represents his artistic vision. With iconic Pop Art imagery as well as bold collaged abstract imagery, James Gill is making his mark once again on the world of art. Major shows have been launched in several states celebrating the return of this legendary artist. James Gill is truly an artist rediscovered.

Title of work: Pregnant Woman
Date of item: 1966
Inscribed: “For Bill” Signed: “Gill 66” on the lower right
Dimensions: 18 ½” x 15” (framed) (46.99 x 38.1 cm)

Description: Small drawing of a pregnant female nude. The drawing primarily used cool colors (greens and blues) but there is some purple in the background and part of the figures hair is red. It appears the figure has gotten a drink in the middle of the night and is perhaps returning to bed The view of the interior space is abstracted and the figures face is somewhat abstracted as well.
Material: Colored pencil on paper
Medium: Drawing
Country of origin: United States

Artist’s statement about work: A person who has a desire to make a work of art and doesn’t know why, has a stirring in his unconscious that is seeking expression. These can only find a true expression through originality. Then there has to be some type of technology to express these thoughts and feelings. Why do I choose certain images to reproduce or combine? I could analyze it or put words to it but actually it was just a slice of time, a few hours out of a year, what was happening then. The subject of any artwork is the artist’s perception. Anything, from a figure in a landscape, to a flower, to a dream, is only raw material for an artist to use as visual tools for the expression. Since an artist’s perception is based on his emotional relationship with the cosmos, art essentially reflects the artist’s identity. Every piece of art is a kind of an emotional self portrait. Whether the concept is triggered by external causes or internal, reality and meaning are constructs of the mind. It is, in fact, this very perception of an object or an event that allows us to make sense of it. To make original art involves more than simply conveying information. Passion, intuition, vision, sensitivity and courage are needed to complete the image provided one has the technical knowledge to execute it. Some viewers take an analytical or negative approach toward these expressions of originality and remain dissatisfied spectators of the art. When one finds himself responding to the emotion the artist puts into the work, that’s when the real power of the artist’s imagination shines. Moments of knowledge can be shared but insight happens to the self alone. A painting is first a gift to the painter and then to others as they understand that the painting expresses more than the total of the image. The role of art is to create passion. Why else would a painting that one person hates be worth $50,000,000 to someone else?

Condition: Good condition from deed dated November 15, 2006
Conservation future: None
Provenance: Gift
Donor information: Dr. William Emboden

Value: $15,000
History of object: Gift to the museum from Dr. William Emboden. Accessioned March 22, 2006
Exhibitions: Uncommon Places, The Art of James Francis Gill, San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts October 6, 2005 – January 15, 2006
Restrictions: None

Cataloger name: April Wallace
Date: April 24, 2012
Sources used: Artist’s File
Book – The Art of James Francis Gill by Jim Edwards, William Emboden and David McCarthy