2 Dogs – 3 BANDSMEN; and camera

Media - 1986.65.138 - SAAM-1986.65.138_1 - 9757
Copied Jon Serl, 2 Dogs--3 BANDSMEN; and camera, 1963, oil on fiberboard, overall: 69 1422 in. (176.055.9 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson, 1986.65.138

Artwork Details

2 Dogs – 3 BANDSMEN; and camera
overall: 69 1422 in. (176.055.9 cm)
lower right in white paint: JON back in white chalk: '503 (written in a circle)/June '63 (underlined) 6' x 18" Red/"2 dogs-3 BANDSMEN;/and camera"/CY8
Credit Line
Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson
Mediums Description
oil on fiberboard
  • Figure group — male
  • Animal — dog
  • Performing arts — music — band
Object Number

Artwork Description

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.
Luce Center Label

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)