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Sonoma County painter opens hometown show — in Yonkers

Jack Stuppin, a longtime Sonoma County artist, enjoys an enviable reputation for his colorful and distinctive paintings of Northern California landscapes, but his latest exhibit deals with a very different part of the country.

“Jack Stuppin: The Beginning of My World” opened earlier this month at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, New York, in the region where Stuppin, 87, learned as a boy to love looking at the landscape.

“When I was growing up in Yonkers, the Hudson River and the Palisades cliffs there were the edge of my world. I didn’t even know what was on the other side,” Stuppin said. “Now the Pacific Ocean is the edge of my world.”

His horizon has expanded dramatically since his boyhood. Stuppin brings an odd blend of backgrounds to his work: a Columbia University education, service in the Marines in Japan during peacetime between the Korean and Vietnam wars and a successful career as a Bay Area investment banker and entrepreneur, particularly in early computer software technology, starting in the 1960s.

“I’ve been one of the luckiest people in the world,” Stuppin said. “I had no major in college and no business experience, but I helped start six companies and five were successful.”

He settled in west Sonoma County in 1988 to devote the rest of his life to painting, and within in a few years, he became a charter member of the famed Sonoma County Four, with William Paul Morehouse, Tony King and Bill Wheeler.

The four artists started painting together in the early 1990s, doing plein air works on location. In 1992, they traveled across the U.S. from California to New York, painting in locations all across the country.

Stuppin’s work is part of the collections of 21 museums across the country, including the de Young Museum in San Francisco, the Oakland Museum and the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. He has been represented by the ACA (American Contemporary Artists) Galleries in New York City since 2010.

Stuppin became known for his colorful, striking landscapes, studded with what fans called “Stuppin Hills.” He figures that 95% of his some 140 paintings so far are depictions of Sonoma County. But others mark a return to the Hudson River Valley setting of his youth.

“Jack first started sending letters to me maybe 20 years ago or more,” said Laura Vookles, chairwoman of the curatorial department at the Hudson River Museum. “He’d send me cards about his shows in California, telling me he grew up in Yonkers.

“In 2009, Jack had a show at his gallery in New York. It was all scenes of upstate New York and the Hudson River,” Vookles said. “We were drawn to his work to begin with. It’s hard not to be.”

In 2010, the Hudson River Museum put together an exhibit titled “Paintbox Leaves,” a tribute to the Hudson River School, the large group of American landscape painters of several generations who worked between about 1825 and 1870 and drew inspiration from the region.

“I said, ‘We have to have a painting from Jack Stuppin,’” Vookles recalled.

That eventually led to Stuppin’s current one-man show in Yonkers, featuring nine of his paintings of the Hudson River region, including one of his works that is already part of Hudson River Museum’s permanent collection.

In his return visits to the Hudson River Valley, Stuppin employed his usual technique, first roughing out a plein air rendering of the locale in person, then using photographs to complete the painting in his studio.

“These paintings were done over a six-year period,” he said.

Even the most devout Stuppin fans can’t be expected to drive across the nation to see his show, but there are images available to see at hrm.org/exhibitions/jack-stuppin.

The Hudson River Museum exhibit runs through Jan. 2. 2022, and will include in-person appearances Saturday and Sunday, July 22-23, by Stuppin. Vookles said she’s excited about that.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met him,” she said. “I’ve just talked to him on the phone a lot of times, and exchanged emails. So I’m looking forward to his visits.”

(This story has been updated to add that Jack Stuppin exhibit has been extended through Jan. 2.)

You can reach Staff Writer Dan at dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5243. On Twitter @danarts.

Dan Taylor

Arts & Entertainment, The Press Democrat

Do you take fun seriously? I know I do. Tell me what you want to know about arts and entertainment in the North Bay to make the best use of your leisure time and money. As a longtime local arts journalist, I have learned where to look and who to ask.

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