Jack L. Meanwell
Mary Ran Gallery handles the artistic estate of Jack Meanwell. Additional work is available that is not listed on the website. To inquire call 513-871-5604.
(b. February 6, 1919, Winnipeg, Canada; d. June 7, 2005, Cincinnati, OH).
John Leonard Meanwell, commonly know as Jack, was the son of Leonard William and Mary Eleanor Jenkins Meanwell. His father was an architect born in Rugby, England, who immigrated to western Canada. A search for work in his field lead his father to moved the family to Windsor, Ontario. There he began a career at Albert Kuhn, the internationally acclaimed architectural firm across the river in Detroit, MI. Artistic sensibility ran in the family and Jack shared his father’s talents, as well as an interest in painting shared by his mother, aunt, and grandfather. He began his study of art with figure drawing in high school and received further training in Detroit at Meinzinger School of Art and at the Society of Arts and Crafts.
During the Depression Meanwell enrolled in technical school to learn commercial art. When World War II started, he enlisted in the Essex Scottish Infantry. He stayed a month before deciding to join the Royal Canadian Air Force, where for four years he was an aircrew radar instructor. Meanwell married Marjory Wallingford, of Fort Mitchell, in Windsor, Canada on June 27, 1942. He and Marjory met during her visit to McGregor Bay, Canada, with her neighbors. At that time, Meanwell worked on the McGregor Bay mail boat for his aunt who ran the store and the post office.
In 1945 Meanwell began working on advertising art for Chrysler and Ford at the Greenhow Art Studios in Windsor, Canada. He found the technicality of commercial art stifling so he moved to the Cincinnati area in 1947.
He took up residence in Northern Kentucky with his wife and young son, living with Marjory’s parents in Fort Mitchell. Soon after, he took over half of the Wallingford Coffee business from Marjory’s father. They eventually, moved to Erlanger, KY and then much later to Southgate, KY where they lived until the early 1980s.
In 1972, Meanwell sold his share of the Wallingford Coffee Company in order to focus on his painting. In 1976 he started teaching at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, where he continued for the next 25 years. Meanwell also accepted a teaching position at Northern Kentucky University in 1979. After his divorce from Marjorie, Meanwell was married two more times, the last time to Mary Ann Shaffer. He maintained an art studio for about 25 years at Elmwood Hall, in Ludlow.
Most of his summers were spent in McGregor Bay, Canada, where he found inspiration for his landscapes in the rugged wilderness. His parents and grandparents summered there and eventually, Jack bought his own island in the same area and returned year after year to his second home there.
As Meanwell became one of Cincinnati’s most accomplished modern painters, his works were shown at almost 100 art exhibits and galleries in the region, beginning in 1969. He also had occasional exhibits in New York City, Chicago, Toronto, and Windsor.
Meanwell exhibited at the Governors’ mansions in Ohio in 1974 and Kentucky in 1979. He was included in the Cincinnati Art Museum’s traveling exhibition, as well as its Invitational in 1981. Merida Galleries in Louisville hosted Meanwell in 1977, 1979, and 1982. One of his earliest one-man shows was in 1979 at Shaw Rimmington Gallery in Toronto. In February 1981 the Gallery at Ohio University, Landcaster, featured an exhibit of his watercolors. In 1983 he was one of fewer than 20 artists selected to show work in “Kentucky Revisited, 1983” in Frankfort.
By 1984 Meanwell’s reputation prompted an interview by the Cincinnati Enquirer art critic Owen Findsen. The interview focused on Canada’s group of Seven show a the Cincinnati Art Museum, as well as Meanwell’s paintings were “charged with color and energy” and had “a freedom that is far beyond the Group of Seven.” In 2001 the curator of collections at the Miami University Art Museum, Edna Sourthard, described the Meanwell works exhibited there as “dramatic landscapes and figures painted with bright bold colors and energetic brushstrokes.” She added, “The bright, abstract images are infused with power and originality.”
Closson’s Gallery represented Meanwell throughout much of his career. In 1979 one of Closson’s early Meanwell shows was described as “forceful art for a vast landscape” by art critic Findsen. Closson’s held multiple exhibits of Meanwell’s work at its downtown Cincinnati location. On February 3, 1996, Closson’s opened “25 Years with Jack Meanwell” in downtown Cincinnati; the exhibit was shown at their second gallery in Kenwood on March 28th of the same year.
In February 2001 the Art Academy of Cincinnati held a retirement party for Meanwell and presented him with an honorary doctorate of Fine Arts degree. In 2001, the Mary Ran Gallery presented a major exhibit with forty of Meanwell’s strongest paintings at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. In 2004 the Ran Gallery presented Meanwell’s last exhibit while he was alive. The subjects of the images were the familiar female figure, landscapes, and florals that were so representative of his abstract expressionist work during the last 25 years of his life. He died on June 7, 2005. Meanwell’s work has been included in numerous corporate, institutional, and private collections such as Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati Bell, American Financial, Western and Southern Life, Marietta College, the University of Windsor.