J. Leo Fairbanks was born in Payson, Utah in 1878. The son of early Utah artist, John B. Fairbanks, and the older brother of noted sculptor, Avard Fairbanks, J. Leo was an artist and educator. He died in Corvallis, Oregon in 1946.
Fairbanks first studied under his father and then went to Paris for further study from 1903 to 1905, first at the Académie Julian where he won first prize in painting and a second prize in sculpture. He later studied at the Académie Colarossi and the Grande Chaumière. When he returned to Salt Lake City, he became director of art and architecture for the Salt Lake City School District. In 1923 he was recruited to be chair of the department of art and architecture at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon.
Although Fairbanks's major focus was art education, he was also a painter and sculptor. In 1916, he completed a sculptural frieze for the temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Hawaii. His painting Dry Lands Harvest, Eastern Oregon appeared on the cover of Literary Digest. His plaster sculpture Buffalo was completed in 1930. His painting Quaking Aspens, Big Cottonwood (Quaking Ash) was completed in 1912.
Biography adapted from Artists of Utah.
J.Leo Fairbanks (1878-1946), was an artist son of J.B. Fairbanks and brother to Avard Fairbanks. He was born in Payson, Utah one year after the birth of his friend Mahonri Young. Studying under his father, J. Leo replaced J.B. at L.D.S. University in 1901 for a year. Going on to Paris, he returned in 1903-4 and secured employment as both supervisor of drawing in Salt Lake City public schools and again as an art instructor at L.D.S. University. To keep his college teaching job through the next few years and then to pick it up again between 1897 and 1910, this younger Fairbanks pursued a style more polished and naturalistic than his father's. Leo continued on as Salt Lake schools art supervisor until 1923 before leaving Utah for an appointment as art department chair at Oregon State College. A successful J. Leo outlived his father by only six years; his death came while he was still at the helm of the art department in Corvallis.
Biography courtesy Artists of Utah.
Olpin, Robert S., William C. Seifrit, and Vern G. Swanson. Artists of Utah. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1999.