West Fraser

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James West Fraser (born February 3, 1955), better known as West Fraser, was born in Savannah, Georgia. One of the leading American artists in the representational/plein air tradition, Fraser has built his career on richly painted, atmospheric vistas of cities, coasts, and the landscape. West Fraser was born in Savannah, Georgia, the son of Joseph Bacon Fraser, Jr and Carolyn Bexley. Fraser attended the Savannah Country Day School, and was raised in nearby Hinesville until 1964, when his family moved to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. He graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1979. The following year in Savannah, he worked independently as an illustrator and began his first serious painting in watercolors. From 1980 to 1984, he lived in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and began traveling up and down the New England coast to paint maritime subjects and harbor scenes. In 1984, he settled in Charleston, South Carolina and continued his work in watercolor through the late 1980s. The realistic, detailed marine compositions from this period resulted in early critical recognition, with a 1984 two-man show at the Grand Central Art Galleries in New York City, and his first one-man exhibition at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston in 1986 through early 1987. By 1986 Fraser had already evolved in a looser, more lyrical watercolor style, and by 1989 had started producing his first oil paintings created from life in open air—en plein air—a style based on an impressionistic rendering of light, color and atmosphere on the forms of landscapes, city scenes, and marine views. Since then he has explored his vision in this vein — constantly developing his formal and expressive skills in portraying subjects ranging from panoramic urban rooftop views, to intimate streetscapes, to remote island marshlands. Working in plain air liberated Fraser from his studio, placing him into the rich fabric of urban life, or by contrast, into unspoiled natural environments, where he has recreated the light and colors of seasons, times of day, and varied atmospheric effects on landscapes and city scenes.