A Life: The Philip Jamison Retrospective exhibition

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A retrospective of the work and life of an artist is a one-of-a-kind exhibition. Beyond simply art, it is a chance to delve into the mind and the stories which lay underneath canvases and paint. The Philip Jamison Retrospective, now on view at the John H. Baker Gallery in the E. O. Bull Center for the Arts at West Chester University, is a stellar example. Jamison may be known for his landscapes and floral still lifes, but the exhibit shows that his interests and his work went beyond these themes, beyond, even, the atmosphere.

Maine Sketch

“I wanted to honor Phil after his passing by hosting an exhibition of his works,” said John Baker, professor emeritus of the Department of Art + Design at West Chester University. In the past, WCU has hosted other shows which included works by Jamison as well as artwork from his extensive collection. This is not the first retrospective of Jamison’s work—one was held at Church Street Gallery in West Chester in 2019, which Jamison himself helped to curate, as well as one at the Chester County Art Association in the 1990s. This one, the first since his passing in 2021, delves further into his life, his passions, and his inspiration.

“Many people knew him, but they didn’t know his whole seventy-five years,” says Philip “Flip” Jamison, the artist’s son, who helped curate the show with John Baker and other members of the Jamison family. Jamison was a prominent and friendly face in the local art scene. His work was heavily influenced by the Brandywine Tradition of art, exemplified by Howard Pyle and Andrew Wyeth. “I see Phil as one of the founding fathers of the Arts in Chester County,” says Baker.

The landscapes that occupy many of his pieces are familiar, images of the area around West Chester and also from his summers spent in Maine. Maine had a special place in Jamison’s life and works. His family stayed for many years in his grandmother’s hotel in Vinalhaven, Maine, until Jamison bought a home of his own for his family to spend their summers in.

Studio Vignette

The exhibit shows many sides of the artist. “I find his self-portrait to capture his spirit and technical expertise,” Baker says. One of the most interesting parts of the exhibition is the collection of sketches that served as studies for his works. He often combined sketches of landscapes “with his daisies,” notes Flip Jamison. Daisies dominate many of the still lifes in the show, as well as the fields and rolling hills of the countrysides.

But the retrospective goes beyond the flowers and fields. Jamison served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, but did not abandon his art. His letters home were illustrated with wittily captioned images, which “he did for his mother more than anything else,” Flip Jamison said. A scrapbook that “started with his letters home from the war” is included in the show, with some of the illustrations as well as candid and posed photographs from his time in the service.

Philip Jamison in the Navy

Space enthusiasts can find something interesting in the show as well. Jamison was invited to attend launches of the Apollo spacecraft by NASA during the 1970s.

“Every year, they invited artists to space launches,” Flip Jamison said. “He went a couple of times and was always given a tour.”

When it came to style, the artists were given free rein. They were told to “paint whatever you want, however you want.”

Two of Jamison’s works hang in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Visitors to the Retrospective are struck by the personal touches, including a vignette featuring art supplies from Jamison’s studio. “I hope people see not only how accomplished Phil was in his studio practice, put also see the passion he brought to his art,” says Baker. “We are honored to be able to share this body of work in our gallery.”

Flip Jamison notes the personal connection that infuses the exhibition. “I hope they learn more about him than just a name,” he says, looking around the gallery. The Retrospectivecertainly invites visitors to dig deeper. It is a celebration of not only a lifetime of works, but of a life.

Sketch with Daisies

The Philip Jamison Retrospective is on view through Oct. 14 at the John H. Baker Gallery in the E. O. Bull Center for the Arts, located at 2 E. Rosedale Avenue in West Chester. For more information, check WCUPA.edu/arts-humanities/artdesign and on Instagram @artsatwcu.

About Victoria Rose

Victoria Rose (she/her) is an editor, writer, avid reader, self-described geek, and fan of all things creative. Her passion for words has led to her current career as a freelance editor, and she is the owner of Flickering Words, an editing service. When not wielding a red pen (or cursor), she loves reading books of all genres, playing video, board, and word games, baking ridiculous creations to show off on the internet, or enjoying the gorgeous outdoors. She is a board member of the West Chester Film Festival and part of the Thirsty Monsters, a team of streamers from around the world who fundraise for various charities supporting LGBTQIA+ and accessibility rights. She can be found online @WordsFlickering or the Brandywine Art Guide @BrandywineArtGuide.

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