Ella Jack, “Untitled (Floral Still Life),” undated

Ella Jack, a native Oklahoman, was a watercolor painter whose works are featured in collections all over Oklahoma. Jack was hired by the Oklahoma State University Art department in the 1950’s as a painting instructor. One of Jack’s most famous colleagues was the Indiana native artist, Doel Reed. Doel Reed taught at Oklahoma State University from 1924 to 1959, ending up as the head of the art department. Reed, like Jack, got most of his inspiration from nature.

Ella Jack, Untitled (Floral Still Life), undated. Watercolor, Gardiner Permanent Art Collection, Gift of Alpha Chi Omega Sorority

Jack’s many layers of watercolor in this untitled painting create dimension, allowing her to create very dynamic image of flowers. Watercolor is a very expressive medium because of its transparency and how each layer of paint is visible through the layer above it. It also allows the light not to just be reflected from the uppermost surface, but from the paper beneath it as well. Jack used a great deal of layering as well as thick brushstrokes, which give the painting a somewhat abstract quality. The background and table on which the flowers are set are much more abstracted than the flowers themselves. This draws the viewers’ attention away from the setting and allows their attention to be focused on the flowers in the foreground. Jack used very large brushstrokes when painting this piece, which truly capture the look and feel of the very large petals and leaves of these flowers. In this watercolor, the cool greens, blues and whites are instantly warmed up by Jack’s dynamic use of browns. By using these colors, Jack captures the cool, crisp nature of the flowers, while also incorporating the feeling of warmth they create.

Ella Jack influenced many people by her art and had many colleagues at Oklahoma State University who influenced her as well. Janette Dickerson, fellow artist and student of Jack’s, was greatly influenced by her and her works. Dickerson wrote about how she grew up painting and that it was Jack that encouraged her to observe and paint the things around her. B.J. Smith was another colleague of Jack and fellow painter whom she worked alongside. Smith started the first full time art gallery, the Gardiner Art Gallery, at Oklahoma State University and served as the director at from 1965 until his retirement in 1994.

This post is excerpted from a research paper written by Katie Worthen, a student in ART 3683: History of 20th Century Art, in Fall 2009.

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About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
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10 Responses to Ella Jack, “Untitled (Floral Still Life),” undated

  1. Susan Hern says:

    I have several Ella Jack paintings that I
    Would be interested in selling. I will
    Take pictures and send via email
    If there is any interest or if you could
    Direct me to someone who might like
    To buy them. They were my mother’s
    And she graduated from OSU and knew
    Ella Jack.
    Thank you,
    Susan

    • osucurator says:

      Hi Susan,

      Thanks for your comment! The OSU Museum of Art doesn’t have the resources to purchase work, unfortunately, but I’m always interested in learning more about our former faculty’s work and connections they had with collectors. I should also note that any gifts of art to OSU are tax-deductible! But if you are interested in selling them, then galleries like Linda Pierson’s gallery, on Cherry Street in Tulsa, take works for sale on consignment. I mention the Pierson Gallery specifically because Linda specializes in Oklahoman artists, so her clientele would be the right audience for Jack’s work.

      Feel free to contact me directly if you have other questions!

      Louise Siddons, curator.

      • Susan Hern says:

        Louise,
        Thank you so much for your prompt response. I am a teacher with a son getting a masters degree, so I am hoping to sell two of them to earn some money. Otherwise, i would love to donate them. One of them I particularly love and want to keep! I really appreciate your help.
        Susan

    • Craig says:

      I grew up and lived in Stillwater in the late 50’s through the late 80’s. In the early sixties My mom and brother and sister and I would stop by Ms. Jack’s home on Sunday mornings to take her to church as we only lived a few blocks away. My mom had a couple of her paintings that we all loved and although my mom has passed, we still cherish those paintings. I don’t remember the inside of Ms. Jack’s home but I have driven by it thousands of times in the past. When I’m back in town for a visit I almost always drive around the old neighborhood and her house is one I specifically look for. As a graduate of OSU Architecture I now realize what a little gem that house is and hope that it stays in good hands and in a well maintained condition.
      It may already be in the works but it sure would be nice to have a showing of Ms. Jack’s work at the new OSU Art Gallery.

  2. Jane Butts says:

    OSU art group:

    my name is Jane Butts, and I am Ella Jack’s great niece. My father, also an OSU grad, was her nephew, and I have wonderful memories of our many visits to see “Aunt Ella.” She put a brush in my hand when I was 10 years old, and painted 2 pieces just for me showing horses (my girlhood passion.)

    My family moved to Stillwater in ’69 or ’70, and lived in her wonderful FLWright-ish house on 4th Ave. It’s worth a drive-by, as she designed it herself in c1947. 6 cats, mimosa and magnolia in her back yard……….such wonderful memories. She was kind, funny, and fiercely independent.
    By the way, the flower in her pictured “untitled” is one of the magnolias from a huge tree in her back yard. When they were in bloom, there was a bouquet in every room!

    Warmest thanks to those who have fallen in love with Aunt Ella’s works.

    L. Jane Butts

    • Bri says:

      Jane-
      I live in her house right now and have seen her paintings. The paintings are beautiful and the house is too. I learned the history from the landlord who lived there before. The house is worth a drive by because it is still so beautiful! I am really interested in finding out more about her and the houses history!
      -Bri

      • Jane Butts says:

        Just found your 2013 post. So glad that Aunt Ella’s house still has a fan club. I sent a former owner many pictures of Ella and the house under construction. Don’t know if they stayed with the house (as I had requested). In any event, I do have more pictures somewhere, and of course, many vivid memories. If you are still at 1817 and wish to correspond, please feel free to contact me.

  3. osucurator says:

    Jane,

    Thanks for your comment — what a lovely memory to share. And your aunt sounds like a dynamic person to have been around! We have several works by her in the collection, and they’re very popular: one is on display in the Art Department office and another has been in the office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for some time. We’re looking forward to seeing another of her paintings in our upcoming exhibition, “The Influence of Oklahoma,” opening on August 20.

    I’m going to make sure I drive by her house next time I’m out — it sounds like a treasure. Do you know if the current owners know its history?

    Louise.

  4. Becky Burney says:

    My mother also obtained a watercolor by Ella Jack while she lived in OK close to 60 yrs. ago. She displayed it in our home for years. This last month she has become ill and has relocated to our home here in Missouri. I am trying to find information on a particular piece of art. Would you know who might know? I know my mom would be tickled to hear some history and perhaps value of the peice. I can send a picture to help. Thank you. Becky Burney

    • osucurator says:

      Hi Becky,

      I’d be happy to take a look at a photo and see if I can tell you anything. As the curator of the museum, I can’t give you a value because of conflict-of-interest rules, but I’d be happy to share any historical information we have that related. My direct email address is louise.siddons[at]okstate.edu — I don’t think you can send photos via the contact form here on the blog.

      Louise.

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