John William "Uncle Jack" Dey

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John William Dey
Born (1912-11-11)November 11, 1912
Phoebus, Virginia,
United States
Died October 10, 1978(1978-10-10) (aged 65)
Richmond, Virginia,
United States
Nationality United States
Known for Painting

John William "Uncle Jack" Dey (November 11, 1912 – October 10, 1978) was an American self-taught artist who lived and worked primarily in Virginia. Before he began painting, he worked as a trapper, fisherman, lumberjack, barber, and police officer. Dey was a favorite among the neighborhood children, whose toys and bicycles he fixed, and they affectionately nicknamed him "Uncle Jack".

Biography[edit]

John William Dey was born in southern Virginia. His parents separated when he was 11 years old, and he took on a series of odd jobs to help his family.[1] He dropped out high school and later moved to Maine with a friend where he worked as a trapper and lumberjack. After his stay in Maine, Dey worked his way back south and settled in Richmond, Virginia, where he studied to be a barber. There, he met Margaret Pearl Cleveland, whom he later married. Dey became a police officer for the City of Richmond around 1942 and retired in 1955. Dey died of cardiopulmonary arrest in 1978.[2]

Painting career[edit]

Despite having no formal artistic training, Dey began painting in 1955 after his retirement from the police force. He preferred to use model airplane paint[3] and painted on wood, plywood, and corrugated cardboard, which he sometimes covered with an old t-shirt.[4] Dey purchased frames from yard sales and second-hand shops and then created paintings according to each frame's size.[2] His subjects include country landscapes, Biblical stories, and imagined, exotic scenes, some inspired by his own memories.[5] Each painting had a story, and Dey attached letters to the back of some of his paintings, explaining what the story was.[2] Dey's doctor and friends were some of his earliest supporters and he gave away 300–400 of his paintings before he was recognized as an artist.[4] It is estimated that he created around 650 paintings.[2]

In 1973, the American Folk Art Company in Richmond, Virginia, held Dey's first public paintings exhibition[2] and more widespread recgonition came in the next year when folk art collector Herbert Waide Hemphill Jr., included an image of Adam and Even Leave Eden in his book, "Twentieth-Century American Folk Art and Artist.[4]

Several of Dey's works, including Adam and Eve Leave Eden, The Elephant Who Was Fond of the Watermelon, and Acupuncture Pitchfork Style, are included in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.[6]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ McGreevey, Linda F. (2013). "Dey, John William (Uncle Jack)". New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Volume 23: Folk Art. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Chuck and Jan Rosenak research material, circa 1987-1998. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
  3. ^ "John William "Uncle Jack" Dey". Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c Gregson, Chris (1986). "Life and Legend: Folk Paintings of 'Uncle Jack' Dey.". Exhibition at the Meadow Farm Museum/Crump Park, Richmond, VA. 
  5. ^ "John William "Uncle Jack" Dey". Luce Foundation Center for American Art. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  6. ^ "John William Dey". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved 11 February 2014.