Jan Stussy Biography

Jan Stussy




Painter, printmaker, muralist, Academy Award wining documentarian, and art professor Jan Stussy was born in Benton County, Missouri, in 1921. His family relocated to Southern California when he was a child, and in the late 1930s he took courses at the Art Center School in Pasadena, studying under Barse Miller. He then enrolled at the Univerity of California Los Angeles, where he studied under George Cox and earned his BA in the early 1940s.

After a stint in the U.S. Navy,
 he returned to California and in 1947 began teaching at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he would remain for forty-two years as a professor of art. In 1953 he earned his MFA under Frances de Erdely, and began taking private lessons from Stanton MacDonald-Wright, who remained a friend throughout his career. He began exibiting with the California Watercolor Society in the late 1940s and was elected vice president in 1950.

Stussy took extensive travels throughout Europe, Japan, South America and Mexico beginning in 1950, and he exhibited regularly throughout California and the Southwest. He was awarded a scholarship to Tamarind Lithography Workshop in 1970. An interest in film brought him to a collaboration with director John Joseph in the late 1970s, in which the pair documented the life of Mark Hicks, a visual artist who was quadriplegic. The project earned them an Academy Award in 1977 for Best Documentary Short Subject. 

Over the course of his career the prolific artist made over 5,000 works of art, and spent two decades helping to develop extension programs to encourage adults to pursue art. Stussy's work is in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian Institute, among others. 

Stussy died in 1990 in Los Angeles.