Stephen Gjertson American Born 1949
Stephen Gjertson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1949, the eldest son of Arthur and Betty Gjertson. Gjertson’s family loved to read, so it’s not surprising that his first exposure to the visual arts came from books. “We owned a set of encyclopedias that reproduced many works of art. We also had novels illustrated by artists such as N. C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell, Howard Pyle and Dean Cornwell. I remember reading those books and copying the illustrations. Later, my interest in the Old West led me to history books and stories with paintings by Frederic Remington, Charles Schreyvogel and Nicholas Eggenhofer, whose pictures I also copied. For birthdays I received books on the great masters. The work of Michelangelo, Titian and Rembrandt made a lasting impression on me. That, I said to myself, is what I want to do.” Gjertson’s love for nature was born in the fields, woods and cliffs along the Kettle River in Sandstone, Minnesota, the home of his parents and grandparents. He filled his sketchbooks with drawings of trees, rocks and the ruins of old buildings scattered throughout the overgrown quarry and the surrounding countryside. He decided to make art his profession while drawing Pilgrims at Thanksgiving in the third grade. At age 10, he received his first box of oil paints for Christmas. His art teachers in both junior and senior high school encouraged the young Gjertson. After graduating, he attended the University of Minnesota, where he played drums in the Football Marching Band. The art department at the university was hostile to what he wanted to do as an artist, and instructors told him to not pursue the outmoded principles of traditional art. Discouraged, he left and attended art school for one year. There, he encountered the same senseless fascination with negative, theory-centric art and learned nothing of practical value. In 1971 he met Richard Lack and studied art seriously until 1975 at Atelier Lack, a studio-school based upon the teaching of the 19th century French ateliers and the Boston impressionists. In 1978 he met Kirk Richards, who was studying at Atelier Lack. The two artists became the best of friends. Stephen Gjertson, Passing Storm, Dangerous Shoal — Castle Danger, detail, 1983. Oil on canvas, 30 x 42. Collection of Russel Lee Weiner.