Friday, June 22, 2012

Jesselyn Benson Zurik (1916-2012)

Newcomb Students, gouache on paper, 1935
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Gift of the artist
The Ogden Museum is saddened  to announce the passing of a talented artist whose work and spirit have played an important role in this institutions history. Jesselyn Benson Zurik passed away on Wednesday, June 20, 2012.

Life Study of Teacher, 1936, charcoal on paper
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Gift of the artist

Jesselyn Benson Zurik was born December 26, 1916 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She attended Lafayette School and the Arts and Crafts School of New Orleans before enrolling in Isidore Newman School in 1927, where she graduated in 1934. While at Newman School, she served as Art Editor of the Pioneer from 1931 through 1934. This early education in the arts prepared her for a lifelong journey through one of the most influential arts programs in the South and into a professional career as an illustrator, designer and fine artist.
Untitled, 1937, watercolor on paper
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Gift of the artist

In 1934, Zurik enrolled in Newcomb College at Tulane University, where she received a Bachelor of Design in 1938. She continued her studies at Newcomb from 1958 to 1960. During her time at Newcomb, Zurik studied under some of the great arts educators in the South at that time, including Xavier Gonzales, Will Henry Stevens and Caroline Durieux. Newcomb was a unique experience in the South of the 1930s. A staff of artists, hand-picked by William and Ellsworth Woodward, brought to the region a strong influence by the Munich School, the Pennsylvania Academy and the Rhode Island School of Design. The pottery studios created not only income for the university, but a legacy of design, iconic to this day. Will Henry Stevens, in particular, brought to the school a view of the natural world that was highly influenced by the Transcendental writers of the American Renaissance.
Women with Apples, 1935, gouache on paper
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Gift of the artist

After graduating from Newcomb College, Zurik worked as an illustrator, draftsman and designer for Katz & Besthoff Drug Company, Adler’s Jewelry Store, D.H. Holmes and Higgins Ship Builders. As an artist she has participated in over two-hundred-and-fifty group exhibitions, and has been the subject of over thirty singular exhibitions. As a mature artist, she is most widely known for her minimalist wood sculpture, but continued to draw and paint, even creating a beaded art car from a 1974 American Motor’s Gremlin in the 1980s.

Untitled, 1938, ink on paper
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Gift of the artist

An exhibition of her works -- drawn mainly from the gift of approximately eighty-seven paintings, drawings and archival objects from the artist to the Permanent and Study Collections of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art -- was mounted at the Reynolds Ryan Art Gallery in 2010, curated by Bradley Sumrall.  Jesselyn Benson Zurik: The Newman and Newcomb Years offered insight into the experience of a Newcomb student in the 1930s, and background to the career of an important American Minimalist sculptor.


Untitled, gouache on paper, 1937
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Gift of the artist