Frye Art Museum
photo by Jill Berarducci
John Register: A Retrospective
July 2 - August 29, 1999
Martini, 1994, oil on canvas, 50 x 35 inches
John Register (1930 - 1996) was not just another realist painter. This former race car driver quit his successful job as a New York City advertising executive one afternoon in 1972 and never returned to the office. Instead, he dedicated the rest of his life to his one true passion - painting. Beginning July 2, 1999 the Frye Art Museum hosts the first comprehensive retrospective of this unlikely artist's work.
Organized by the San Jose Museum of Art, this exhibition is the first major showing of Register's work, which has often been compared with that of Edward Hopper. Culled from private collections throughout the United States, the retrospective includes paintings and other works on paper. The exhibition is accompanied by a full color hard bound catalogue "John Register: Persistent Observer" by Barnaby Conrad III.
John Register was a major California realist painter, best known for his sunlit paintings of cityscapes, waiting rooms, storefronts, and coffee shops. Born in New York, Register studied at the University of California, Berkeley, and the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. As a race car driver he set a number of course records throughout California in the early 1960s, driving his beat-up Porsche Speedster against such rivals as Lance Reventlow and actor Steve McQueen. He studied at Brooklyn's Pratt Institute, founded by his great grandfather, Charles Pratt. He later studied with portraitist Everett Raymond Kinstler and landscape painter Lennart Anderson.
Register painted the beauty and the art in the everyday: a semi-truck on the highway, a stop sign, draperies flapping in an open window or empty chairs and diners. Human beings are rare in his work. Register chose these subjects because, "they are something we experience universally, a kind of denominator of interior space." The artist was noted for his ability to capture the atmosphere, light, and stillness of unlikely scenes, creating a distinct sense of place.
Despite struggles with life-threatening illnesses during the last fifteen years of his life, Register continued to paint prolifically until he succumbed to cancer in 1996 at the age of 57. His legacy stressed the overlooked beauty in unpeopled places.
After Seattle, the exhibition travels to the Palm Springs Desert Museum in California, the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art in Malibu and the Sun Cities Museum of Art in Arizona.
Read more in Resource Library about the Frye Art Museum.
For further biographical information on selected artists cited in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.
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