Painting the Southern Coast: The Art of West Fraser

Painting the Southern Coast: The Art of West Fraser

Painting the Southern Coast: The Art of West Fraser

Painting the Southern Coast: The Art of West Fraser


Painting the Southern Coast: The Art of West Fraser is a stunning collection of the works of West Fraser, one of the nation's most respected painters of representational art. A mastery of his medium and the scope of work ensure his place in southern art history. A true son of the lowcountry, Fraser has dedicated much of his career to capturing the lush, primordial beauty of the Southeast's coastal regions that have been altered by man and time. The 260 works in this book are representative of the sketches, studies, and finished paintings he has generated over his nearly forty-year career, works that depict coastal locales from Winyah Bay, South Carolina, to St. Augustine, Florida, and include Charleston, Hilton Head, Savannah, and the islands of the lowcountry through the Golden Isles of Georgia.
Fraser's goal with each of his paintings is to create a portrait of what he calls "my country." He captures on canvas not only the visual beauty of the landscape, but the spirit and soul of each place. From the sultry streets of Savannah to the winding waterways and unique environs of the region's sea islands, the works included offer a view of the land he loves. Fraser augments his visual tour of the coast with original maps of the region and location coordinates of each painting, enhancing the viewer's knowledge and appreciation of the region as well as Fraser's artistic gift.
Painting the Southern Coast: The Art of West Fraser includes essays by Jean Stern, executive director of the Irvine Museum, and Martha R. Severens, Greenville County Museum of Art curator (1992-2010) and authority on southern art. Fraser has also written an autobiographical essay in which he discusses the experiences and influences that have shaped his work and his life as one of America's noted landscape artists.


Jean Stern

West Fraser is among the best of the best artists in America. His paintings are founded on observation and reality. They are truthful and undeviating, and every work is a document of the artist’s obsession with natural light. He is an artist who shamelessly seeks beauty in his beloved city of Charleston and in the natural settings of the southeastern coast.

More than any artist I know, West is comfortable being himself. There is no elaborate theory in his work, no hidden message, and no vapid self-examination of the artist’s profound soul. Simply put, his paintings are beautiful and sincere and, most of all, universally appealing. in keeping with Sir Kenneth Clark’s perceptive definition of art, they do indeed “enrich the viewer’s life.” Today, representational artists such as West are virtually ignored by chic contemporary art writers, and yet the public loves their paintings and wants to see them.

I first met West in 1996, when the Irvine Museum toured an exhibition in the Cultural Olympiad, in conjunction with the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. As part of the tour, our exhibition was shown at the Gibbes Museum in Charleston. On opening night, I was chatting with Paul Figueroa, at the time the executive director of the Gibbes, when I asked him if there were many plein air painters in the city. He replied, “There are just a few, and West Fraser is the best of all of them.” He introduced me to West, and I made an appointment to visit his studio at nine o’clock the next morning.

I was a bit early for our meeting, but at nine sharp I saw West walking toward me with two wet oil sketches in his hands. I was impressed not only by the quality of his work but, more so, by the fact that he had been up early enough to paint two plein air sketches! I decided right there that I had to get to know this wonderful artist and obtain his work for my collection.

Since that day my wife, Linda, and I have gotten to know West and his beautiful wife, Helena. We have visited them in Charleston, and they have visited us in Irvine. Moreover, we have been together at numerous museums and art exhibitions in locales as diverse as Bakersfield, Catalina Island, Charleston, San Juan Capistrano, Lake Tahoe, and Stockton. in October 2003, at the Plein Air Painters of America annual in Catalina, I watched for about two hours while West painted a dramatic 20″ × 16″ painting of the iconic Holly Hill House, overlooking Avalon Harbor. That painting now hangs in our home. I look at it every day, and it reminds me of my friends in Charleston.

West has a remarkable sense of tradition and of place. He has made it his life’s work to record the people, culture, and land of the South. a student of history and a keen observer of light and color, he has applied his extensive talents to produce several series of works that document the people and city of Charleston, the vanishing traditions of the southern coast, and the primitive and enduring landscape of the lowcountry and sea islands.

His depictions of Charleston are masterpieces of contemporary impressionism. They are everyday scenes of ordinary people, painted in situ, as they appear on the streets of . . .

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