“Art should communicate. If I provide only an exact rendering, then I have failed. But to paint with your heart and soul will give one’s mind and emotions an impression that no one can take from you. This is what I endeavor to accomplish.”–G. Harvey
G. Harvey was born Gerald Harvey Jones in San Antonio, Texas in 1933 to a family with deep Western roots. His grandfather had been a cowboy in his youth, working as a trail boss driving longhorns up to Kansas. Jones grew up roaming the Texan plains and hearing his grandfather’s stories about the exciting people and events that once filled them. He had always liked art, but was not sure quite how he wanted to make a career out of it. After graduating from UT Austin, he got a job teaching technical art at O’Henry Junior High School in Austin. His wife, Pat, bought him paints, and he began painting as much as he could on weekends. Although he enjoyed his trade and his students, he soon found that he was not getting enough time to paint, so he quit his job to paint full time.
Initially, Jones was interested in landscape painting, and spent his days out sketching in his favorite Texas landscape. Soon, however, he began turning to more human subjects, looking for inspiration to the romanticized West from his grandfather’s stories and to his devout Christian faith. Jones’ technique, particularly with historical paintings, was always a research-heavy approach. He would spend several days at a time living with cowboys at a local ranch that did things the old-fashioned way, sketching and getting a feel for how they lived. Having that feel was important to Jones–he felt strongly that his art must be evocative, providing its viewers with a thorough sense of a place instead of simply the sight of it.
G. Harvey’s paintings quickly became successful. His dedicated fan base included presidents and governors, and his art was displayed in governor’s mansions and even the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, where he held a one-man show called “The All-American Horse.” He was also becoming a household name, and made an effort to make his art more widely available by releasing popular print editions of his paintings. As he continued in his career, he broadened his subject matter, painting an increasing number of city scenes and different, moodier, genre pieces. However, he generally remained within his favorite time period–the turn-of-the-century “Golden Age,” a time Jones thought of as one of great excitement and change. Gerald Harvey Jones died in 2017 after a long and fulfilling career in art.
The Picnic, featured in Fine and Decorative Arts on March 30, 2019, depicts a family having a riverside picnic. It is a brilliant example of G. Harvey’s work, featuring in particular his fascination with painting light. Sunlight dapples the leaves on the trees and glistens on the ripples in the water. The subtle shadings of light lend a feeling of movement to the piece, as the viewer is drawn downstream from the watery foreground to the picnicking family further toward the background. This family, although small, draws focus and contains one of Harvey’s favorite elements. The parasol the woman holds makes it clear that this painting depicts Jones’ favored “Golden Age,” but it is a subtle nod; the painting is in some ways more similar to his earlier landscapes, and shows his dedication to subtle blending of the two genres–the way he painted places that mattered to him, but then filled them with the people he imagined must once have inhabited them.