Known for paintings closely linked in mood and subject matter to Edouard Cortes (1882-1962), Gerald Harvey Jones creates romanticized street scenes depicting turn of the century towns in America that capture the physical aspects of period architecture and transportation.
Born in 1933, Harvey grew up in the hill country west of San Antonio, an area rich in Texas history whose physical features have attracted generations of artists. “As a child, I would spend hours listening to my father talk of the ranch life and frontier days of Texas,” he says. “My paintings have never been literal representations. They are part firsthand experience and part dreams generated by my dad’s stories.”
Although he enjoyed art while growing up, he graduated cum laude from North Texas State University in Denton with an industrial arts degree and then went on to teach for several years in Austin. His early interest in art slowly evolved into an after hours passion for painting and he soon realized the time he spent on the weekends and at night was not adequate to satisfy his fascination. In 1964, he abandoned his teaching position and focused solely on his fine art career.
Harvey studied with Frank Gervasi and Porfirio Salinas, artists whose insight and experience helped him to refine his technique and approach to painting. In addition to this training, he devotes considerable time to researching the period, setting and details of each piece. He gathers material on location for his urban scenes, as he attempts to feel the pace of the city, and then returns to his studio to paint. “I recall the impressions they made on me,” he says. “The ultimate goal of my paintings is to elicit from the viewer an emotional reaction and involvement in the scene. So, while the facts and the descriptive information in them are important and need to be true to the time period, they really play second fiddle to conveying that indescribable feeling of the place.”
Harvey also works in bronze, creating sculptures that are a natural extension of his painting style. Often depicting the working cowboy in his sculptures, Harvey relies on input from cowhands on the 160,000-acre Spade Ranch along the Colorado River in west Texas where he has been a guest for more than 25 years. Their critique helps him to sharpen not only the fine details such as worn chaps and boots, but also the sentiment behind a hard days work. “I use real-life working cowhands and actual incidents as the basis for my work. What I try to convey, however, is not the specifics of the name or the action, but the overall feeling of rugged individualism that has become synonymous with the men responsible for working in a legendary landscape with horses that are spirited yet controlled.”
Harvey has been honored with museum exhibitions at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, 1992; National Archives, Washington, DC, 1991; Gilcrease Museum, 1982; National Academy of Design, New York, NY, 1963.