1887 - 1918
Theme/Style – Modernism, Symbolism, figurative works
Media – Oils, ink drawings
Artistic Focus – Rex Slinkard was a pioneering, influential and highly regarded early Los Angeles Modernist and Symbolist painter who, during his short life and career, achieved a status among critics and fellow artists that rightfully can be called legendary. His startlingly modern canvases seemed to give voice to deeply hidden thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and elevated the depiction of the human form to a spiritual level. Slinkard’s abiding interest in poetry and philosophy, and his mystical connection with nature, informed his painting.
Career Highlights –
• Rex Slinkard was born in Bickwell, Indiana, in 1887, and moved to the Los Angeles area as a child. He became a student at the Art Students League of Los Angeles and, as a promising student, received a scholarship to study in New York under the famed painter Robert Henri. While in New York from 1908 to 1910, Slinkard was a roommate of George Bellows.
• Returning to Los Angeles in 1910, Slinkard taught at the Art Students League, acting as director until 1913. One of his students was Nicholas Brigante, and together Slinkard and Brigante also studied poetry, literature and artistic philosophy.
• In 1910 he exhibited his New York paintings at Los Angeles’s Blanchard Gallery, and critic Antony Anderson credited him with “a skill that does not fall short of the masterly.”
• After 1913 Slinkard spent time at his father’s ranch in the nearby Saugus-Newhall area, where he worked both on ranch duties and his painting. It was at the Saugus ranch that Slinkard broke away from traditional influences and developed his highly individualized painting style, creating the many canvases that would come to define him as an artist.
• After the outbreak of World War I, Slinkard enlisted in the Army in 1916. He was awaiting a troop transport to Europe when he died of influenza in New York in October of 1918.
• A memorial exhibition of Slinkard’s work took place at
the Los Angeles Museum in 1919, displaying the paintings that were found
at the ranch in Saugus after his death, as well as war-time drawings
done during his period in the service. The catalog of the exhibition
contained an eloquent appreciation by Marsden Hartley.
• Following the Los Angeles show, memorial exhibitions of Slinkard’s paintings were held both at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco and the Knoedler Gallery in New York; and his artworks were included in the First Exhibition of the Group of Independent Artists of Los Angeles in 1923. These posthumous exhibitions prompted even more interest in and discussion of Slinkard’s work nationwide, and a second Los Angeles Museum memorial exhibition was held in 1929.
• In 1955, a collection of Slinkard’s paintings, representing the majority of his artistic output, was bequeathed to Stanford University and was exhibited there often through the early 1960s. Slinkard’s work also was included in the show Arts of Southern California XIV: Early Moderns at the Long Beach Museum of Art in 1964.
Additional biographical material and full bibliographic
references are available upon request.
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