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Jonathan Leo Fairbanks

Jonathan Leo Fairbanks was born in 1933 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is the son of Avard T. Fairbanks and nephew of J. Leo Fairbanks. Jonathan developed art skills as he assisted his father in his studio.

After his father took the Dean's position at the University of Utah and the family moved to Salt Lake City, Jonathan took art lessons from LeConte Stewart (1891-1990), an art professor at the University of Utah, muralist Florence Ellen Ware (1891-1971), watercolorist Mary Kimball Johnson (1906-1994), and Arnold Friberg, in whose studio he worked as an assistant for a couple of years. He had already graduated with a B.F.A. as a studio artist from the University of Utah.

His paintings are in The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.; the Boston Public Library; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the St. Botolph Club, Boston; Wye House and Myrtle Grove on the Eastern Shore of Maryland; the Alhambra in southern Spain; and in many private collections.

Biography adapted from:

Woods, Jean.   Jonathan Leo Fairbanks, A Painter's Journey, 1952-2004. Hagerstown, Maryland: Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.

Jonathan Leo Fairbanks (1933-) son of Avard T. Fairbanks and nephew of J. Leo Fairbanks. Jonathan Leo Fairbanks was born in Ann Arbor when his father was teaching there. Jonathan early developed skills as an artist due to the fact that he and his brothers were expected to assist their father in his studio and, indeed, enjoyed working with him and learning about the world of art.

There was a great deal of camaraderie as well as knowledge imparted at these sessions. His mother always encouraged his efforts to paint and secretly acquired some of his paintings in local shows; his father grounded him in the basic skills of painting and sculpture. Jonathan sketched with Avard and learned composition in the Utah countryside.

“Also, I learned from my father an enthusiasm for whatever undertaking was at hand,“ comments Jonathan. At various times, he posed for his father's sculpture, beginning as a baby when his father carved a marble of him in 1933. Later, he served as a model for other works including one of a series of relief panels on a monument in Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

After his father took the Dean's position at the University of Utah and the family moved to Salt Lake City, Jonathan took art lessons from LeConte Stewart (1891-1990), an art professor at the University of Utah, muralist Florence Ellen Ware (1891-1971), watercolorist Mary Kimball Johnson (1906-1994), and Arnold Friberg, in whose studio he worked as an assistant for a couple of years. He had already graduated with a B.F.A. as a studio artist from the University of Utah.

While serving in the U.S. Navy as a navigator on a heavy cruiser for the Admiral's flag staff of the Commander Cruiser Division Four, Atlantic Fleet, he sailed to the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and the North Atlantic. After the Navy, Jonathan entered the University of Pennsylvania and, through a joint program with the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, he earned an M.F.A. In Philadelphia, Jonathan studied mural painting with George Harding and John Hanlen and sculpture with Walker Hancock, who became an important mentor. He supported these years in part as a contract painter doing murals and dioramas for the Pennsylvania Academy of Natural Sciences, which brought into play his childhood interests.

Following his 1954 marriage to Louisa Eckenbrecht, who shares his love for art, Jonathan continued his studies in 1959 as a fellow in the Winterthur program in Delaware . They are the parents of two daughters, Hilary and Theresa. Both girls were the subjects for busts created by his father in Pietrasanta, Italy, a small town favored by sculptors because of its nearby marble quarries and carving studios.

Although Jonathan worked after graduation at the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, and then as Curator of the Department of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for thirty years, he always painted. Perhaps because of his nine years at Winterthur and his years of exemplary service at the M.F.A., he is a better painter. He is certainly aware of all the details and nuances that go into a successful exhibition. At Boston, he founded the Department of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture and was a persuasive curator in the acquisition of works of art, as well as a master in bringing monetary gifts to the institution.

Highly knowledgeable in the decorative arts, he has written numerous publications on furniture, American crafts, and ceramics, and is considered a specialist on Paul Revere, the American patriot and silversmith. In addition to authorizing numerous books and articles, he has garnered many awards running the gamut from the Furniture Society's Award of Distinction to the Ellen Banning Ayer Award for Contributions to Arts and Culture.

In between serving as a guest curator for exhibitions and doing art research, he continues to paint, frequently spending part of the summer in Utah. He did a painting of his father near Salt Lake City in 1983, which captures the artist enjoying a day of en plein air pursuits. These outings in the country where father and sons would paint together, continued until his father's death in 1987. Today, other members of the family join him in his painting excursions in Utah.

His paintings are in The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.; the Boston Public Library; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the St. Botolph Club, Boston; Wye House and Myrtle Grove on the Eastern Shore of Maryland; the Alhambra in southern Spain; and in many private collections.

Biography courtesy:

Woods, Jean. Jonathan Leo Fairbanks, A Painter's Journey, 1952-2004. Hagerstown, MD: Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, 2004.

Newspaper Articles

"Art Exhibit Features Area Collectors' Favorites; South Shore Center Hosts Opening Friday." Patriot Ledger, September 21, 2002.

"Arts and Crafts Spectacular." Providence Journal, January 16, 2001.

"Crafting a New Kind of Museum." Boston Globe, December 26, 2001.

"Crafts on the Cutting Edge." Providence Journal, September 30, 2001.

"On Spec." Boston Globe, June 17, 2000.

"Social Scene; Island Art Auction Yield Portrait of Profitable Partnership." Boston Herald, September 9, 2002.

"Winners' Circle." Boston Globe, October 25, 2000.

Saltz, Lynda. "Exhibit Preview; In the Studio, Former M.F.A. Curator Returned to his First Love." Patriot Ledger, November 26, 2002.

Books

Olpin, Robert S., William C. Seifrit, and Vern G. Swanson. Artists of Utah. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1999.

Woods, Jean. Jonathan Leo Fairbanks, A Painter's Journey, 1952-2004. Hagerstown, MD: Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, 2004.

 Last Modified 9/3/14