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2 Dogs--3 BANDSMEN; and camera

1963 Jon Serl Born: Olean, New York 1894 Died: Lake Elsinore, California 1993 oil on fiberboard overall: 69 1/4 x 22 in. (176.0 x 55.9 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson 1986.65.138 Smithsonian American Art Museum
1st Floor, West Wing

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2 Dogs--3 BANDSMEN; and camera

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"My paintings are not complicated, but they have a soul in them." Jon Serl, "Inside the Outsiders," Art and Antiques, Summer 1990

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Jon Serl’s paintings magnificently fuse the vivid life of his peripatetic, vaudeville upbringing with mature musings on survival, human relations, gender identity, morality, and his own artistic life in the company of chickens and chihuahuas. When Serl began painting in earnest in the late 1940s, he favored landscapes. He soon turned to portrayals of human interaction marked by saturated color and liquid-limbed, dream-like figures.

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Jon Serl lived an isolated life in Capistrano, California, avoiding interaction with other people whenever possible. He never planned his paintings but just put down on the canvas whatever came into his head, describing each one as a "discovery" (Robert L. Pincus, "The World According to Serl," The San Diego Union, January 18, 1987). This image of three figures and two dogs was inspired by a group of young boys who were pestering the artist. To keep the children occupied, he told one of them to lie on an old piece of board. When he saw what it looked like, Serl decided it "had to live" and so painted the image onto the wood, adding colorful costumes to the figures to evoke a trio of musicians. (Phone conversation with the artist, September 21, 1989)


Animal - dog

Figure group - male

Performing arts - music - band


folk art

paint - oil


About Jon Serl

Born: Olean, New York 1894 Died: Lake Elsinore, California 1993

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Jon Serl