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James Jarvaise (1924 – 2015) was born in Indianapolis, IN, and spent his early years in New York, Chicago, and Pittsburgh before finding his way to Los Angeles in 1946. He was educated at Carnegie Tech (Carnegie Mellon University), École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts under Fernand Léger in France, and earned his B.F.A. from the University of Southern California in 1952. Jarvaise then studied at Yale in 1953, returning to the University of Southern California to complete his M.F.A. in 1954.


In 1959, Museum of Modern Art curator Dorothy Canning Miller selected Jarvaise for inclusion in the final installation of her seminal series “Sixteen Americans.” Miller’s choice of artists was prophetic, placing Jarvaise in the exceptional company of his contemporaries: Morris Graves, Charles Howard, Knud Merrild (1942); Arshile Gorky, Robert Motherwell, Isamu Noguchi (1946); Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still (1952); Sam Francis, Philip Guston, Franz Kline (1956); Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg. The groundbreaking exhibition was well received both critically and commercially, with all six of Jarvaise’s works sold, and was set to propel his career to great heights. However, he chose to remain on the West Coast, ultimately preferring a private life of family and academia while continuing to paint prolifically throughout his life.

James Jarvaise: Early Years

Jarvaise married Lorraine Webber in 1950, and the couple moved to Europe in the sixties, living in Spain and France where Jarvaise continued to paint and exhibit. In 1969, they returned to the States, settling the family in Santa Barbara, CA, where Jarvaise accepted a teaching position in the department of Fine and Performing Arts at Oxnard College, eventually serving as Head of the Department from 1991 onward.


In 2012, Louis Stern Fine Arts set out to bring Jarvaise’s work once again into public view with the “James Jarvaise and the Hudson River Series” exhibition. Then, in April of 2015, in what would turn out to be Jarvaise’s final public appearance, Louis Stern Fine Arts presented “James Jarvaise: Collages Redux,” a selection of his later works (1989-2013). The show sold a number of pieces and garnered praise on KCRW’s ArtTalk by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp who noted, “The most youthful art I’ve seen this month is produced by James Jarvaise who is 91,” adding, “The scale is substantial and the work is impressive, and I always think it’s heartening to see that artists just get better and better.”


James Jarvaise passed away peacefully at his home in Santa Barbara, CA, in June 2015. His paintings and collages can be found in a number of venues including the Smithsonian in Washington DC, LACMA in Los Angeles, and MoMA in New York.

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