Artist John Alexander

(b. 1945) John Alexander is a world renowned artist whose works pays tribute to the rich tradition of painters throughout the history of art. His early works were primarily semi-abstract landscapes, and later, dense, expressionistic paintings. His more recent drawings and paintings include birds, plants and animals (often those native to Texas and the Southern Gulf Coast states), and satirical works of characters and masked figures representing the most dysfunctional members of society.

Alexander grew up in Beaumont where his only exposure to art as was a small collection of art books owned by his family. He had an innate gift for drawing and painting that was encouraged by his mother. His father’s contribution to his art career was to take him on frequent camping and fishing excursions in the swamps and bayous of southeast Texas. The East Texas landscape became Alexander’s inspiration and has provided lifelong visual references throughout his career. 

When Alexander’s father passed away in 1965, Lamar painting professor Jerry Newman became a mentor to the freshman art student pushing him to hone his skills in drawing and painting and introducing him to art history. Though Alexander learned to draw by copying works of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he didn’t see art in a museum setting until he was 21 years old and had an opportunity to visit the Art Institute of Chicago.

Alexander received an art degree from Lamar in 1968 and an M.F.A. degree from SMU. He taught at the University of Houston in the 70s, along with sculptor James Surls. When his career began taking off with exhibits at Meredith Long Gallery and the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston, he moved to New York to expand his opportunities in the art world. Alexander still lives in New York, but retains his fondness for Southeast Texas. He enjoys returning at every opportunity, particularly to visit Lamar and to see the birds and wildlife at Cattail Marsh and High Island.

Alexander was awarded a Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1981 and another by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 1984. He had a major retrospective at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston in 2007. His work is included in the permanent collections of the The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the Smithsonian American Art Museum in D.C.; the Museum of Contemporary Art in L.A.; the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston; the Dallas Museum of Art; and the Art Museum of Southeast Texas in Beaumont. In 2015, the painting studio in the Lamar art building was dedicated as The John Alexander Painting Studio.


John Alexander - Night Garden

Night Garden

Year: 2005
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Location: Dishman Art Musuem (Permanent Collection)
John Alexander - Davy Jones Locker

Davy Jones Locker

Year: 1987
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Location: Rudy Williams Bldg, John Gray Center, Ste. 122

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Stuart.
This massive 90” x 100” expressionistic painting, filled with an assortment of fish, sea grasses and a skull, is the largest of several undersea works Alexander painted in the late 1980s. The Smithsonian has one of the others.
Searching for Evangeline by John Alexander

Searching for Evangeline

Year: 2018
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Location: Science and Technology Building North Lobby
Alexander painted this work for an exhibition at Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans. He selected an image and title that would appeal to those who live in and visit one of his favorite cities. The great egret is a bird commonly seen throughout the southeastern states, particularly in swampy areas such as New Orleans and Beaumont. The title references the legend of Evangeline made famous in a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1847. The poem describes a young Evangeline and her lover who were expelled from their homeland and separated from one another on their wedding day. Although the poem is fictional, the story took on a life of its own after Felix Voorhies wrote a 1907 novelette entitled: Acadian Reminiscences: The True Story of Evangeline. The Cajun people adopted the story as part of their culture, and the name Evangeline is frequently found in Louisiana art, music, stores and food brands.

LU alumnus John Alexander talks about what inspires his art, some of his art work that is at Lamar University, and about his time as a student.