All about the Artist
A child prodigy. At the age of four he began wielding a brush. He began experimenting with natural objects creating pigment at the age of six. As an young teen, one of his first portraits was admired by President Kennedy. Before he reached the age of twenty, he became one of the infamous "Artist of Jackson Square" in New Orleans. Then, as with most child prodigies, he vanished from the art scene.
It would be almost 25 years before he appeared again. He began painting and selling art again in the early 90's. Once again, his work was sought after. The Governor of Maryland's wife collected a painting at a show in Baltimore. Then, the Maryland Jockey Club commissioned him to do the promotional artwork for the 2002 and 2003 Preakness Stakes. He created artwork for the Marriot Corporation, Ingram Entertainment, Providence Hospital, America On Line (AOL), First American, the Spy Museum and several other businesses large and small.
In the midst of this commercial revival, he opened MacArthur Studio. The first location was in Laurel, Md. He then moved to Aspen Hill, Md before finally moving to his current location in Rockville Maryland. His commercial work came to an end and his art became the talk of the town. The last ten years have been yet another awakening as he has entered shows and events throughout the state. The walls of his studio now feature over 20 first place ribbons awarded by various judges in shows he has entered.
Beginning in 2016, he went to Europe and visited France, Italy, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands. His passion was rejuvenated. He traveled from Paris to Aix, from Provence to Rome, Cinque Terra to Borano, Bruge to Amsterdam, His art took on a new zest and once again the world is discovering John MacArthur.
He continues to remain active and just this year (2022) has won another 9 first place ribbons out of 18 shows entered. The following was an interview with him.
Reprinted with permission Fine Art Collectors Digest
And it has been said, "c'est un artiste naïf!" Some argue, "non, c'est un fauve!" john macarthur
“Art is unique. Look at what I create. Understand, you are seeing a part of me. Naked. Just as I am. That is art. Artist’s don’t hide when sharing. They sit next to you on the bus. They stand behind you in the market. You don’t see them. Stand before their work. Then, then you see them” john macarthur
In our interview with John MacArthur, he continued, . . . "Today, I freely sketch and paint throughout Europe and the United States. It wasn't always that way. I had very humble beginnings, but those beginnings were the roots that anchor me today. I am a native Washingtonian. Born in old Garfield Hospital. My family lived in a apartment project on Porter Street, just above Rock Creek Parkway. My love for paint came naturally. My mother was a watercolorist and my father sketched with charcoal and dabbled in oil. Relatives have traced our family tree back to an art dealer that among others, represented Michelangelo. Pretty cool stuff. At the age of two or three, I discovered a bucket of orange paint and fresh brush. I proceeded to paint as many basement windows as possible. There was no critical acclaim. My father chose to feed the beast and brought me stacks of newsprint and wonderful pencils from his office at the Evening Star.
"Color is a language all its own. I use it to communicate. My goal is to reach inside the viewer and touch their heart." john macarthur
FACD: So where did you grow up?
We moved to a large row house in Adams Morgan. I soon discovered the marvelous berries (pokeberry) that could be used to produce a deep magenta paint. There was red clay that could be mixed with water to create several shades of reddish brown. Cold coffee left behind after breakfast was another source of tan. Although grass stained clothing green, I could not master creating a fluid pigment. My limited palette forced me to paint negative shapes. (Newsprint was plentiful but it was almost impossible to create any fluid detail). If I wanted a bird, I had to paint everything but the bird. It was an early lesson in understanding the importance of what is not there in relation to what is there.
I was sent to Catholic grade school. While many share the horror stories of being taught by nuns, I don't have any. I was exposed to famous paintings in art class. We never got into technique, but I was captured by the beauty of the art itself. Paintings like "The Angelus" and "The Gleaners" by Millet, "Whistler's Mother" and "Nocturn Blue and Gold" by Whistler and all the beauty of Monet, VanGogh, etc. I began to hear the sweet sounds of the muse.
Once again, my parents uprooted the family and purchased a brick colonial in Wheaton, Maryland. I entered a new school with new nuns and more fine art education. I was pretty much satisfied with drawing and using crayons. Then in early September of 1956, my father took me to a movie opening (He was the Drama Editor of the Evening Star). The movie was "Lust for Life". It was a typical opening with all the fanfare. Kirk Douglas (or a stand-in) was there is full costume. I was 10 and my eyes were as big as saucers. I stood transfixed while my father and he passed pleasantries. He turned to me, shook my hand and gave me a prop that he was carrying. It was a wooden box with 5 or 6 tubes of acrylic paint and a palette and brush. I don't recall much of the movie, it think it was mostly dialogue. I still have the box.
“I only have so much time. There is so much to share. Your world, my color. I only ask that you slow down and see what I see.” john macarthur
That evening I tried using the paint on newsprint. It didn't work. I painted my father's windshield. Again, there was no critical acclaim, but he did bring me home a large pile of sheets of white cardboard. I began to paint and paint and then paint some more. It was much more pleasant to sit in my closet and paint. The world outside was not so nice. I was the new kid and I was small in stature. It was easy to bully me. I just went home. At home, I was one of three. Our parents were slaves to alcohol. So I created my own little studio in the closet and painted.
FACD: Did you have any formal instruction?
Not quite yet. At some point, the land at the corner of Evans Parkway and Georgia Avenue on the southbound side was cleared. A building was constructed. It was a branch of the Maryland School of Art and Design. The area not cleared was wooded and provided a terrific voyeuristic hiding place for a small boy with a large dream. I could sneak across the street, trek through the woods and climb a tree and watch students through the windows. There would be drawing and painting classes. I saw my first naked person and was amazed at how all the people drew the same thing so differently and yet all the same. I wanted to go to a school like that.
I ended up going to Northwood High School. Here was my first taste of formal instruction. My first real art teacher was Mrs. Davila. I was never an official student. My parents would not allow me to waste my precious time taking art. I still spent the majority of my time hanging out in her class. She was an angel. No one else seemed to notice me or the fact that I wore the same clothes everyday. She would talk to me and encourage me. Did I say she was an angel.
FACD: So what did you do after high school?
It was in the late 60's that I sojourned to New Orleans, Louisiana. $300 was enough to rent a garage for six months. It was my studio and living space. I garnered my eight foot section of fence at Jackson Square and dove into the artist's community. I sold work by day and painted and replenished my inventory by night. The phrase "starving artist" covered more than the need for food. Artist's starve for a sense of time, sometimes for heat and always for just the right light.
Since those early days, I have continued to work and grow within my field. I am no different from my peers. We have all dabbled in many areas. We have all attempted different media. We create and seek to share our personal vision. A great deal of my visual work is available for viewing online.
FACD: And what does the future hold for you?
I have reached a point where I am quite happy with my journey. This website has a lot of my work. To be honest, posting on a website is not at the top of my daily to do list. My time is spent painting. That is who I am. Scroll through what is here. There is more art located at Fine Art Studios I hope you enjoy.