Jack Freeman was a San Francisco painter. He studied at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, with Oskar Kokoschka’s School of Vision in Austria, and received his BFA & MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in the late 1960s. Freeman initially adopted an Abstract Expressionist style during this early period, creating several of the large-scale abstracts found in the Lost Art Collection. Freeman eventually came to favor Post-Impressionism as a way “to resolve volume and space, color combinations and transitions, light and movement--things that depict life.” He enjoyed painting outdoors and often chose locales off the beaten-path, resulting in intimate San Francisco and Bay Area scenes.
Jack Freeman was born July 27, 1938 in Richmond, Virginia. He was creative from an early age and interested in art as a child. His family recalls him painting on the frosted glass window panes during the winter; mixing watercolors with the frost to create his temporary palette. Jack’s mother was a painter before beginning a family, and his father’s insurance investigation work moved the family all around the U.S., although Jack spent most of his childhood in Atlanta with his brother Robby and sister Lane. He studied art and even took an anatomy course at a local medical school to develop his understanding of the figure.
In the 1950s-60s, Freeman studied Art at the College of William and Mary in Richmond and at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art. Feeling the itch to travel, Freeman went to Vienna to study with Oskar Kokoschka’s School of Vision in 1962. He won third prize in a student competition (“a big morale booster”) which encouraged him to move to London. While in London, Freeman met famed sculptor Henry Moore who encouraged him to “stick to painting, because this isn’t the Renaissance anymore. You’re lucky if you can do one thing well.” Freeman’s time in Europe whet his appetite for travel, food & wine, and learning foreign languages- passions he maintained throughout his life.
He returned to the States and settled in San Francisco in 1964 to study at the San Francisco Art Institute. Freeman earned his BFA and MFA at SFAI while living a true bohemian college lifestyle “going to jazz clubs and bars all night and sleeping and making abstract paintings all day.” He soon overhauled all that and began to examine himself and his work, finding that he had little to do with the contemporary art scene. Freeman preferred more traditional painting styles, and although he exhibited frequently, felt that his work was more rooted in Modernism than current styles and contemporary painting trends.
Freeman’s early SFAI work shows the influence of the 1950s Bay Area Figurative Movement and 1960s Abstract Expressionism, while his mature work takes notes from a mixture of Expressionism and Impressionism “with some English Realism thrown in.” A dedicated plein air painter, Freeman loved scouting different SF neighborhoods for new spots to paint. Many of the scenes in his oeuvre of cityscapes are recognizable street corners or aerial views of San Francisco and surrounding locales. He prefered to work with oil paints so that he could touch up the paintings when he returned to his studio, “while the paint is still wet and the idea is still fresh.”
Freeman kept a studio in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood, just a few blocks from Lost Art Salon, for nearly forty-five years. His expansive space allowed him the luxury of storing his massive collection of canvas paintings and scores of sketchbooks, much of which is included in the Lost Art Collection. He loved to cook, spoke Italian and French, and played bones, spoons, and drums with the local Babar Jug Band which originated at the Mission’s Cafe Babar. Freeman exhibited consistently in the Bay Area for nearly thirty years; at universities, alternative spaces, and galleries such as SOMAR, which he co-founded and curated. Jack and his wife Nancy traveled throughout Europe, especially France and Italy, where Jack often painted and taught.
He returned to Austria in 1983 to head the American section at the (New) School of Vision, headed by Rudolph Kortokraks, Kokoschka’s successor and taught at the Palo Alto Art Club from 1973-77. Freeman remained an involved community member in his neighborhood of Noe Valley, with an active social and artistic life. He passed away on July 18, 2014.
Lost Art Salon would like to thank Robby & Nancy Freeman and Anna Waclawiczek for their hard work and help in bringing Jack’s collections to us.