Born April18, 1924, in Chicago; only child. At five, begins to ride and draw horses. Ellen Jackson, his mother, operates a lunchroom near the Chicago Stockyards, where Harry first becomes acquainted with cowboys.
Saturday morning classes at the Chicago Art Institute, with scholarships in 1935-37. Impressed by Thomas Hart Benton murals at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. Attends lectures on Renaissance art by Daniel Catton Rich. Constant truant from school; only interests, drawing and horses. Visits to the Harding Museum, where he becomes familiar with the bronzes of Frederic Remington. Decorates lead and paper mache toy soldiers in uniforms of British regiments of India’s Northwest Frontier.
Runs away to Wyoming and becomes a cowboy on the Pitchfork Finch in Meeteetse, near Cody, which he regards as his spiritual birthplace. Encouraged in art by the painter Ed Grigware. Brief visits to Chicago to study art at the Mizen Art Academy, the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, and the Chicago Art Institute. Constant sketching of cow work on the ranch; first oil paintings.
Joins the Marine Corps. Wounded in the Central Pacific at Tarawa, 1943, and Saipan, 1944. At 20, appointed the youngest Official Combat Artist when he is stationed at Los Angeles for the duration. Involved in radio performances for the Marines. Works as radio actor for several months after discharge in October 1945 at the rank of tech sergeant. Discovers paintings of Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, and the Mexican muralists.
Moves to New York; studies art with Rufino Tamayo and Hans Hofmann while living on the Lower East Side. Becomes friend of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, David Smith, Friedel Dzubas, and younger Abstract Expressionists. Discovers he has epilepsy from war wounds and begins treatments in 1947.
Marries painter Grace Hartigan and spends six months painting in Mexico, where he does important series of abstract collages. Returns to New York and divorces. Begins showing frequently in 1950, with first one-man show at Tiber de Nagy, New York, in 1952. Meets sculptor Jacques Lipchitz for first time at Woodstock, New York, in 1950. Develops distinctive, rhythmic abstract style. Maintains contacts with West in drawings and unfinished paintings. Becomes scene painter for opera and television productions in 1950 to make a living. Visits to Wyoming, including one in summer of 1952 that is decisive in the future development of his art toward realistic and Western subject matter.
Second one-man show at Tiber de Nagy, including more figurative paintings and some realistic drawings. Marries Joan Hunt in 1954. Spends several months in Europe, copying masterworks, sketching and keeping journals in the museums of Italy, Germany, Austria, France, and Spain. Back in New York, begins painting portraits in the grand manner in 1955. Long visit to Wyoming with Joan during summer. Completes large painting, Italian Bar, in 1956, based on extensive studies of patrons and friends in the bar below his studio on Broom Street. Shown at the Martha Jackson Gallery along with work dating back to 1949. LIFE magazine publishes nine-page article on Jackson, “Painter Striving to Find Himself,” about moving from abstract to realistic art.
Travels to Italy on Fulbright and Italian government grants. Receives commission from Robert Coe for heroic paintings, Range Burial and Stampede, for the Whitney Gallery of Western Art in Cody. In Pietrasanta, learns to sculpt at the Vignali-Tommasi Foundry; first bronzes are studies for Range Burial and Stampede as part of the commission and several independent works. Makes Folkways album, “Harry Jackson, the Cowboy: His Songs, Ballads and Brag Talk,” in 1959 and in 1962 appears with Pete Seeger and others in Carnegie Hall, New York. One-man show of Western bronzes and drawings at M. Knoedler & Co., New York, in 1960, is sold out.
Buys land in Camaiore, Italy, where he builds a studio and house in 1961 and workshop and foundry in 1964. Meets Thomas Hart Benton in Kansas City, Missouri. One-man show at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1961. Divorced from Joan in 1962 after five years’ separation. Marries Sarah Mason. Bronze monument of Roman poet-folksinger Sor Capanna for the Piazza dei Mercanti, Rome, dedicated in 1963. Befriends Paul Manship, who sponsors him for National Sculpture Society. Completes Range Burial painting which in 1964 is central work in major one-man shows at the Kennedy Galleries, New York; the National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C.; and the Whitney Gallery of Western Art, Cody. Commissioned by Richard King Mellon Foundation to do major mural and mosaics, River, Road and Point, for the Fort Pitt Museum, Pittsburgh.
Thomas Hart Benton visits Camaiore studio in 1965, demonstrates his mural methods and procedures for using sculptural models; they tour northern Italy, visiting the great Renaissance murals.
Jackson begins work on River, Road and Point. Son Matthew born in 1966. Renews friendship with sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, who lived near Camaiore. Stampede painting completed and shown with Range Burial painting and other works at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Oklahoma City. Pony Express bronze of 1967 presented to the State of Wyoming. Second one-man show at the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, in 1968. Establishes Wyoming Foundry Studios in Europe as the sole representative of his work. Awarded gold medals at the Penn National Show in Pennsylvania (1967) and the National Academy of Design in New York (1968).
Commissioned by TIME magazine in 1969 to sculpt John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn in the film True Grit for their August 8 cover; awarded Certificate of Excellence by the American Institute of Graphic Arts in 1970 for cover. Daughter Molly born in 1969. Establishes second studio and home at Lost Cabin, Wyoming, in 1970; incorporates Wyoming Foundry Studios in Wyoming. Made a member of the Cowboy Artists of America. President of Chile dedicates bronze monumental sculpture of Admiral Lord Cochrane in the Plaza Cochrane, Valdivia, Chile, in 1971. Wins silver medal for sculpture, National Cowboy Hall of Fame. One-man show at the Fort Pitt Museum, Pittsburgh. Divorced from Sarah in 1972. Publishes Lost Wax Bronze Casting, first comprehensive book on the subject. Barbre Productions, Denver, Colo., makes hour-long documentary film, Harry Jackson, a Man and His Art, narrated by John Wayne.
Founding member of the National Academy of Western Art, Oklahoma City, in 1973. Establishes Western Fine Arts foundation for training American craftsmen in lost wax bronze casting at his Camaiore foundry. Marries Valentina Lear in 1974 (daughter of Lear Jet inventor, Bill Lear). Casts exact copy of 19th-century statue of Lafayette by Ernest-Eugene Hiolle in Le Puy, France, for the city square in La Grange, Georgia. Spends 1975 locating funding for Bill Lear’s Lear Star 6oo jet aircraft. Special casting of Two Champs is presented as the Official Gift of State to Queen Elizabeth II by President Gerald Ford in Washington, D.C., on July 7, 1976. Casting of Two Champs presented to King Khaled of Saudi Arabia by Bill Lear. Begins work on 21-inch first study for Sacagawea monument proposed for the state capitol in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Wyoming Foundry Studios becomes Jackson’s exclusive international representative. Son Jesse born in 1977. Elected member of the Bohemian Club in San Francisco and associate member of the National Academy of Design in New York. Cheyenne commission for the ten-foot Sacagawea falls through but the monument is revived for a site in the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody in 1978. Commissioned by the Combined Communications Corporation, Denver, to create a five-foot Two Champs for the corporate headquarters of the American Broadcasting Company in New York. Son Luke born in 1979. Moves Wyoming residence, studio, and business operations from Lost Cabin to Cody. Sacagawea monument completed and unveiled at the Plains Indian Museum of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody on July 4, 1980, accompanied by a one-man exhibition of related sculptures and drawings. Exhibition at the Thomas Gilcrease Institute in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Plans monumental equestrian bronze of John Wayne for Beverly Hills, California. Daughter Chloe born November 22, 1980.
Completes 3′ scale studies for the 21′ Equestrian sculpture. Ultimately to be called “The Horseman,” using the image of John Wayne as the model, begins work on 7′ enlargement and prepares full scale armature. Major art book, “Harry Jackson” is released by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., publishers. Authors, Larry pointer and Donald Goddard. 397 illustrations, including 104 plates in full color. May 1st through September 21st: Buffalo Bill Historical Center, 40 Year Retrospective Harry Jackson (1941-1981) painting, drawing, and sculpture, abstract and realistic. This was a traveling retrospective, beginning at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Wyoming, moving to the Palm Springs Desert Museum in California and culminating at the Minneapolis Institute of Art in Minnesota.
Continues work during whole year on final full scale clay model of “The Horseman”.
This bio covers 1924 – 1984, the summary of the last 27 years of his life will be added at a later date.