Gallery Artists > Frederick Lester Sexton Biography :

Frederick Lester Sexton (1889 - 1975)  Artworks >>

An American Regionalist from Connecticut, Frederick Sexton seldom traveled farther than 50 miles from his home of New Haven. Of his part of the country, he said: "I wonder if one can get any better subjects at any other places. Take our beaches---our wharves, they are wonderfully interesting. . . We don't need to go away. Beauty is right here . . ." (18) His painting subjects included landscapes, portraits and post-World War I genre scenes of people enjoying life after the tensions of World War I. His landscapes are "filled with the secure beauty of the commonplace and the sure conviction that a pasture is as important a source of inspiration as the sublimity of a mountain wilderness or the romance of a foreign subject. During his most active period in his career, the 1920s, 30s and 40s, he was widely reviewed and exhibited. His work was well received because it reflected the intimate vision of the desire of many people to turn away from national concerns to just living their lives in their home places. However, Sexton also saw a decline in his popularity with the advent of modernist movements such as Abstract Expressionism that began to dominate the American art world in the 1950s. Today, many artists including Sexton are being re-discovered as collectors and ordinary viewers learn once again that Realism is an acceptable part of American art because it speaks clearly and directly of the beauty they see around them. Frederick Sexton was born in 1889 in Cheshire, Connecticut. His father, J. Frederick Sexton, was a prominent Episcopal clergyman and was Rector of St. Peter's Church in Cheshire. The mother, Mary Louise Lester, was from a fairly prominent Hartford family and was an amateur painter. When he was eighteen months old, Frederick was the victim of an open-hearth fire. Severely burned, his right hand was permanently closed. His mother died when he was nineteen, and the father held the family together. Sexton attended public schools in New Haven and received art lessons from his mother. He attended the Yale School of Fine Art and studied with Augustus Tack and Sargent Kendall, and was given the coveted Winchester Prize for a year of study in Spain. He also won the John Weir Scholarship for self-study. Graduating in 1917, he was twenty-eight years old, which obviously was older than most of his peers in his class. However, he had worked many jobs in order to finance his education, including being a woodworking teacher in the New Haven public schools. He had fallen in love with his future wife, Dorothy Joyce, who shared his devotion to the Episcopalian Church. During World War I, Sexton was an ambulance driver in France, and he earned commendation for his effective work. He did much traveling in Europe and was influenced by the many paintings he saw in museums and galleries including the modernist work of Cezanne. His first recognition as an artist came in 1922 when one of his paintings was exhibited in the New Haven Paint and Clay Club. He was also asked to join the Club, becoming one of its early active members. He also became very active in the Old Lyme Art Colony at Old Lyme, Connecticut, and in the late 1920s began regular painting trips there. He associated with members of the Lyme Art Association but was prevented from becoming a member there because of the requirement in the Old Lyme Art Association membership rules of land ownership and of occupancy a certain number of weeks out of the year. Wanting to be a member, he bought land from Guy Wiggins, and in 1936 began to build a house and shortly after was voted into membership. Years later he became very angered when the rules were changed so that artists who lived within 25 miles were allowed to be members. Sexton was also active as an organizer and exhibiter on the state level in the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts, whose goal was to provide cooperation among all of the state's art associations. In New York, he was elected to the S

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