Jack McLarty Biography

Jack McLarty




Painter, printmaker, and sculptor Jack McLarty was born William James McLarty in Seattle, Washington, on April 24, 1919. His family relocated to Portland, Oregon when he was a child. While still in high school he helped his parents maintain small hotel which eventually allowed him to support himself when he began his formal art training at the Portland Museum Art School (now the Pacific Northwest College of Arts) in the late 1930s. He then moved to New York where he enrolled in the American Artists School, studying under Anton Refregier and Joe Solman from 1940 - '41.

After returning to Portland, he took a job in the shipyards and focused his subject matter on the working class of his hometown. In 1946 he married gallerist and editor Barbara Lever, through whom he obtained a position at the Museum Art School, where he would remain until his retirement in 1981. Inspired by Diego Rivera and the works of German Expressionists, McLarty's subject matter continued to focus on Social Realism when he taught, helping students to recognize the importance of art as commentary and resistance. 

In the 1960s the McLarty's established the Image Gallery on NW Overton Street, dedicated to highlighting the works of Indigenous Alaska and Mexican artists as well as contemporary works by Portland artists; they remained the owners of the gallery until they sold it in 1986. Meanwhile, Jack McLarty continued to work and to exhibit, especially througout the Pacific Northwest and along the entire West Coast. His work was included in the "Recent Paintings USA" exhibition in 1962 at the Museum of Modern Art (NY), and the "Art of the Pacific Northwest" exhibition in 1974 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, D.C.). 

McLarty's work is included in the collections of the Portland Art Museum; the Seattle Art Museum; Oregon Percent for Art collections; Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (University of Oregon), and the Hallie Ford Museum of Art (Willamette University), among many others. McLarty died on july 10, 2011.