West Fraser

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Self Portrait of West Fraser

James West Fraser (born February 3, 1955), better known as West Fraser, was born in Savannah, Georgia. One of the leading American artists in the representational/plein air tradition, Fraser has built his career on richly painted, atmospheric vistas of cities, coasts, and the landscape.


Early life[edit]

West Fraser was born in Savannah, Georgia, the son of Joseph Bacon Fraser, Jr and Carolyn Bexley. Fraser attended the Savannah Country Day School, and was raised in nearby Hinesville until 1964, when his family moved to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. He graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Fine Art's degree in 1979. The following year in Savannah, he worked independently as an illustrator and began his first serious painting in watercolors. From 1980 to 1984, he lived in Buck's County, Pennsylvania, and began traveling up and down the New England coast to paint maritime subjects and harbor scenes. In 1984, he settled in Charleston, South Carolina and continued his work in watercolor through the late 1980s. The realistic, detailed marine compositions from this period resulted in early critical recognition, with a 1984 two-man show at the Grand Central Art Galleries in New York City, and his first one-man exhibition at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston in 1986 through early 1987.


By 1986 Fraser had already evolved in a looser, more lyrical watercolor style, and by 1989 had started producing his first oil paintings created from life in open air—en plein air—a style based on an impressionistic rendering of light, color and atmosphere on the forms of landscapes, city scenes, and marine views. Since then he has explored his vision in this vein — constantly developing his formal and expressive skills in portraying subjects ranging from panoramic urban rooftop views, to intimate streetscapes, to remote island marshlands. Working in plain air liberated Fraser from his studio, placing him into the rich fabric of urban life, or by contrast, into unspoiled natural environments, where he has recreated the light and colors of seasons, times of day, and varied atmospheric effects on landscapes and city scenes.

In 1990, he shifted to representational/plain air painting in oil. Since then, he has primarily specialized in coastal landscapes, streetscapes and travel paintings. Through his many accolades and awards, he has achieved a national and international reputation as a master of creating a natural light in his luminist paintings. Fraser has had 8 solo museum exhibitions in the Midwest, the Southeast, and California. Fraser has been published extensively, including features in Art & Antiques, Plain Air Magazine, The Robb Report, Southern Accents, American Artist, Nautical Quarterly, Southwest Art and Hemispheres, to name a few. In 2000, he represented South Carolina in the bicentennial celebration calendar published by the White House Historical Association. In 2001, the University of South Carolina Press published the monograph Charleston in My Time: The Paintings of West Fraser, which was accompanied by a traveling exhibition to Southeastern museums. In 2006, Fraser painted the official portrait of SC Governor Mark Sanford.

Honors and awards[edit]

Fraser was a Commissioner of the South Carolina Art's Commission from 2003-2012, he is an elected member of the Salmagundi Club, an elected Fellow of the American Society of Marine Artists, a Signature member of Plein Air Painters of America (PAPA), and a member of the California Art Club.

He garnered his first award in 1984, The John Young Hunter Award from Allied Artists of America. Since then he has been honored with the Award of Excellence from Mystic International, The Mary S. Litt Award from the American Watercolor Society, the Pursuit of Excellence/American Master award from the Hubbard Museum of Art, and the Edgar Payne Gold Medal Award for Best Landscape from the California Art Club's 100th Juries Gold Medal Exhibition, among many others.

Fraser hangs in permanent collections in 9 museums across the United States and Bermuda, and at the White House Historical Association. His audiences include museums, art associations, resorts, the Heritage annual PGA Tour winner, yacht clubs, historical societies, health institutions, corporate and private collections, and educational institutions.

Permanent museum collections[edit]


  • Fraser, West; McNeil, Courtney (2012). A Native Son, Paintings by West Fraser (Exhibition catalog). Savannah, Georgia: Telfair Museum. p. 47. ISBN 9780933075184. 
  • Bostick, Douglas W.; Davidson, Jason R.; Stoney, Richard S. W. (introduction); Young, Stewart (photographs); Fraser, West (featured paintings) (June 2006). The Boathouse: Tales and Recipes from a Southern Kitchen. Joggling Board Press. ISBN 9780975349892. 
  • Sokolitz, Roberta (introductory essay) (2002). Charleston In My Time: the Paintings of West Fraser (exhibition catalog). Charleston Renaissance Gallery. OCLC 222479255. 
  • Permar, Mark (photography); Erikson, Jim (photography); Fraser, West (paintings); Horan, Eric (photography) (2002). Where is Palmetto Bluff?. OCLC 244206269. 
  • Clements, Emily; Fraser, West (paintings) (January–February 2002). "Daws Island: Rich in History, Rich in Art". South Carolina Wildlife. 
  • Fraser, West; Phillips, Ted (introductory essay); Mack, Angela D. (introductory essay) (2001). Charleston In My Time: the Paintings of West Fraser. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 1-57003-392-7. 
  • Fraser, West (1995). The Color of Light: Paintings by West Fraser, 1983 through 1995 (exhibition catalog). Springfield Museum of Art Museum. OCLC 34153235. 
  • Montvidas-Kutkus, Kristina (1994). In the Dinghy. Lure of the Lowcountry (exhibition catalog). Gibbes Museum of Art. OCLC 84526134. 
  • The Second Annual Hubbard Art Award for Excellence (exhibition catalog). The Hubbard Museum. 1991. OCLC 24867776. 
  • Wamsley, James S.; Fraser, West (paintings) (Spring 1985). "Fine and Fragile Islands–Hilton Head, Daufuskie, Kiawah". Islands. 


Further reading[edit]

  • "Fraser's Receives Landscape Award, Edgar Payne Gold Medal for Landscape at the California Art Cub's 100th Annual Gold Medal Exhibition". The Post and Courier. Charleston, South Carolina. May 2011. 
  • Stern, Jean; Siple, Molly (March 2011). California Light: A Century of Landscapes. Skira Rizzoli. ISBN 9780847836253. 
  • Mussari, Mark (December 2010). "Portraits of Places: West Fraser paints the scenery that he has always loved". Southwest Art Magazine. 
  • Robinson, Charles Raskob (July 2009). "Notes from Brush Hill Studios, Artist Profile/West Fraser". American Society of Marine Artists. 
  • Wall, Pam (Spring–Summer 2008). "Collector's Publication Signatures, Artist Profile/West Fraser". Gibbes Museum of Art. 
  • Hunt, Stephanie (Spring 2008). "Island Muse, Artists draw from Kiawah's mystique". Legends Magazine. Kiawah Island. 
  • "Coastal Carolina". American Art Collector. March 2008. 
  • Mettler, Lyn (Summer 2007). "Food As Art". Edible Lowcountry. 
  • Smith, Joan Irvine (2007). Saving California's Vanishing Treasures. The Irvine Museum. 
  • Ragland, Ruth (March 27, 2007). "Capturing The Elusive Lowcountry, Artist West Fraser documents our changing landscape". Bluffton Today. 
  • Lim, Jenny (March 15, 2007). "Landscape Painter returns to Bluffton to judge SOBA art show". The Island Packet. 
  • Lauderdale, David (January 15, 2007). "Woman Travels to Capital to Capture Inaugural Day Moments". The Island Packet. 
  • Abedon, Emily Perlman; Illingworth, Paula (photographs) (January 2007). "Homecoming: A Multigenerational, historic Mount Pleasant home gets a loving update". Charleston Magazine. 
  • Wilkins, Ambassador and Mrs. David (August 2006). "United States Embassy, Ottawa - Art in Embassies Program" (catalog). Washington, D.C.: Art in Embassies Program U.S. Department of State: 36. 
  • Pope, Anne T. (May 2006). "Charleston, SC". The Robb Report. 
  • Mcgee, Elle; Monteith, Larry (photography) (May 2006). "The Art of Living: To One Downtown Family, Fine Furnishings and Collected Art is Just the Stuff of Everyday Life". Charleston Magazine. 
  • Hunt, Stephanie; McKee, Rick (photography) (October 2005). "Stroke of Brilliance". Charleston Magazine. 
  • Aaronson, Beatrice (August 2005). "A Dance of Light- West Fraser". Plein Air Magazine. 
  • Sully, Susan; Illington, Paula (portrait) (May 2005). "West Fraser tells scenic stories en plein air". Art & Antiques. 
  • Laurie, Allison (January 2005). "Intriguing people of the Lowcountry: West Fraser, Lowcountry landscapes". Hilton Head Monthly. 
  • O'Rear, Rosie (January 2004). "West Fraser's Southern Art". Sandlapper, The Magazine of South Carolina. 
  • Jinishian, J. Russell (October 2003). Bound for Blue Water: Contemporary American Marine Art. Greenwich Workshop Press. ISBN 0-86713-088-1. 
  • Stern, Jean; Rose, Roy C; Siple, Molly; Doutt, Barbara; Patterson, Jean (October 2003). Enchanted Isle: a History of plein air painting in Santa Catalina Island. The Society for the Advancement of Plein Air Painting. ISBN 0-9728364-0-3. 
  • "Plein Air Passion, South Carolina artist West Fraser explores settings near and far in his lush landscapes". Southern Accent Magazine. January–February 2003. 
  • Hicks, Ann (April 28, 2002). "Charleston: In Plein View". Greenville News. 
  • "Guest Artist of the Month Column". Port Charleston Magazine. February 2002. 
  • Wolf, Rachel Rubin, ed. (2000). "Art From the Parks". North Light Books. 
  • Ashley, Dottie (August 8, 1999). "Fraser's work to be part of White House calendar". The Post and Courier. 
  • Conway, Ann (July 20, 1999). "There Was Something in the Plein-Air". Los Angeles Times. 
  • Martin, Frank (March 14, 1999). "Fraser's works honest, forthright". The Post and Courier. 
  • "Fraser in love with Low country – Artist's says light right in Charleston". Beaufort Gazette. March 7, 1999. 
  • Moore, Margaret (October 1998). "Cover Artist Profile". Hemispheres. 
  • Piacente, Steve (September 24, 1998). "Charleston painter has brush with bureaucracy". The Post and Courier. 
  • Riddle, Lyn (June 28, 1998). "An Artist's Retreat". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 
  • Ashley, Dottie (June 28, 1998). "West Fraser's artwork is on display at Tradd Street Press". The Post and Courier. 
  • McFadden, Michael (Spring 1998). "San Juan Capistrano: The Jewel of the Missions". California Homes: The Magazine of Architecture, the Arts & Distinctive Design. 
  • "Powerful in the Abstract". The Item. Sumter, SC. March 12, 1996. 
  • Ravenel, Ashby (June 1994). "West Fraser: The Evolution of a Charleston Artist". Carolina Style magazine. 
  • Kincade, Chris (December 2, 1993). "Interview: West Fraser". Upwith Herald. Charleston, SC. 
  • "West Fraser". Watercolor 93 – an American Artist Publication. Spring 1993. 
  • Ashley, Dottie (September 26, 1992). "West Fraser: Artist paints the beauty of nature". The Post and Courier. 
  • Hardin, Nikki (Summer 1992). "West Fraser: Artist in the scene. Living The Dream". Island Scene magazine. Hilton Head Island, SC. 
  • Reed, Dick (Spring–Summer 1990). "Beaux Arts". Legends magazine. Kiawah Island. 1 (1). 
  • Smith, Rebecca (Spring 1985). "West Fraser's Watercolors: Recording the Coast". Nautical Quarterly. 

External links[edit]