Past Gallery Exhibit – Never a Dull Moment

The Art of Grace Spaulding John

Never a Dull Moment exhibit logo
In partnership with the Center for the Advancement and Study of Early Texas Art (CASETA), Rosenberg Library announced its art exhibit Never A Dull Moment: The Art of Grace Spaulding John.

Self-Portrait. Oil on canvas, 1923 (Gift of Patricia John Keightley).

Self-Portrait
Oil on canvas, 1923 (Gift of Patricia John Keightley).

Grace Spaulding John was born in Battle Creek, Michigan in 1890. Her father was a newspaper editor and publisher, and the family lived in Vermont before settling in Beaumont, Texas during the early 1900s. After completing high school, John enrolled at the St. Louis School of Fine Art in 1909. Three years later, she began studies at the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1913, John married Roy Keehnel, and the couple had two children together. When the marriage ended in 1917, John moved to New York to study at the National Academy of Design and at the Art Students League. In 1921, she married Alfred Morgan John, a Houston attorney.

Murdoch's Pier and Beach. Oil on canvas, 1938 (Gift of Patricia John Keightley).

Murdoch’s Pier and Beach
Oil on canvas, 1938 (Gift of Patricia John Keightley).

John continued her studies, first at the Parsons School of Design in New York and later at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 1923, she was among an elite group of eight young American artists who received fellowships to study at Laurelton Hall — the Long Island estate of Louis Comfort Tiffany.

After John returned to Texas, she travelled abroad, producing many scenes from famous European cities. During the 1930s, John spent time painting in both Mexico and the American Southwest, places which inspired and influenced her work in subsequent decades.

God is Mathematics. Oil on canvas, 1938 (Gift of Patricia John Keightley).

God is Mathematics
Oil on canvas, 1938 (Gift of Patricia John Keightley).

One of John’s hallmarks was the preparation of her canvases. Utilizing techniques learned at Laurelton Hall, she used rabbit-skin glue to size her brown linen canvases. She preferred painting outdoors, seated in front of her subject, and usually created a small sketch before beginning a painting. John’s works typically feature bright colors and broad brushstrokes.

She was skilled in a variety of different media including oils, watercolor, pen-and-ink, and pastel. John was also proficient in etching and lithography, and she was one of the first artists to use Plexiglas as an artistic medium.

Examples of Grace Spaulding John’s work can be found at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Museum of Fine Arts Los Angeles, and the Smithsonian, among other institutions. Murals created by John can be found in Houston City Hall, Lanier Middle School in Houston, and Lakewood Yacht Club in Clear Lake. She continued to work until her death in Houston in 1972.