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Cantor Arts Center Announces The Legend of Rex Slinkard

The Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University presents “The Legend of Rex Slinkard” from November 9, 2011 through February 26, 2012. This exhibition of more than 60 works includes oil paintings, charcoal drawings, and pen-and-watercolor sketches that convey the breadth and strength of Slinkard’s short-lived artistic development. Admission is free.

Rex Slinkard (U.S.A., 1887–1918) “Young Riders” c. 1915-1916. Oil on canvas. Bequest of Florence Williams, Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University, 1955.1027

The Cantor Arts Center is the primary repository of paintings and sketches by the early 20th-century California artist Rex Slinkard (1887–1918), who died in the influenza epidemic of 1918 while he was serving in the military. During his brief life, Slinkard emerged from his roots as a California rancher to become a painter who helped influence the modernist bent of the emerging California art scene. He studied with Robert Henri in New York City, where he shared a studio with George Bellows and established personal contacts with well-known people in the worlds of visual and literary arts, before returning to Los Angeles, where he painted and taught.

“These contacts have recently come to light with new scholarship undertaken by Geneva Gano, who spent a post-doctorate year teaching at Stanford, and her research prompted the Center to publish and make more widely known the works of this enigmatic modernist,” explained Patience Young, curator for education at the Cantor Arts Center. “The Slinkard collection came to Stanford in 1955 as a bequest from Florence A. Williams, the sister of Slinkard’s fiancée, Gladys Whitney Williams. Until Geneva’s research this past decade, little has been known about the artist and his work in our collection.”

The exhibition, on view in the Center’s Ruth Levison Halperin Gallery, includes an oil portrait by Bellows of Slinkard, entitled “Portrait of Rex” (c. 1915), on loan from a private collection. A catalogue accompanies the exhibition, with essays, a chronology of Slinkard’s life, and a fully illustrated checklist of the Center’s complete holding of 268 works by Slinkard. Charles C. Eldredge, Ph.D., who touched on Slinkard’s work in his influential exhibition “American Imagination and Symbolist Painting” (1980), and Geneva Gano, Ph.D., contribute essays to the publication, giving context to Slinkard’s life and illuminating his artistic legacy. The catalogue is available for sale in the Cantor Arts Center bookshop.

The title of this exhibition comes from artist Marsden Hartley’s tribute “Rex Slinkard—Ranchman and Poet-Painter,” which referred to the late artist’s reputation as “the legend of Rex Slinkard.” The tribute became the foreword in the catalogue for Slinkard’s memorial exhibitions that were held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City in 1919 and 1920. Hartley also indicated that the nation had “lost a true, pure artist—as well as a possible great one.”

To complement the exhibition and to support Stanford’s academic program in American studies, two oil paintings by Marsden Hartley are on loan from the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum (Minneapolis) for the 2011–2012 academic year. “Painting No. 2” (1913) and “Elsa” (1916) by Hartley are on view in the Center’s Marie Stauffer Sigall Gallery of early modern art.

“The Legend of Rex Slinkard” and publication of the accompanying catalogue are made possible by generous support from the Florence A. Williams Fund. –

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