(1925 - 1994)
A seascape, skyscape, and landscape painter, James Fetherolf created works with fine detailing, a skill he likely learned as a background artist for Hollywood film studios. He was born in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, graduated from Syracuse University and then moved to California in 1949 with a goal of becoming an actor. He struggled for five years to find work in that capacity and at the same time worked for Twentieth Century Fox Studios as a background painter. In 1957, he went to Walt Disney Productions and later returned full time to Fox Studios.
He credited the work at Disney as being educational because he was tied to deadlines and very realistic depictions. His work appeared in classic films such as “Zorro”, “Polyanna”, “Mary Poppins”, and “Third Man on the Mountain”.
Fetherolf turned to fine art painting, inspired by a trip to a local art gallery where he decided he could paint as well if not better than the artists producing the work he saw. He began by painting seascapes, which had a strong market, and this subject as well as landscapes became so popular that he left the film industry to devote himself to oil painting.
His paintings are so realistic that “Individual timbers are discernible inside a distant barn and cacti on the horizon are individually painted.” (988) His paintings of billowing clouds are also signature works, and he achieved the energetic, billowing quality by working fast on the painting of the clouds, completing them in one sitting.
Fetherolf received seven gold medals from the Franklin Mint Gallery of American Art and also was selected to paint the centerpiece work, “America! America! for the Mint’s “America the Beautiful” series. [From the archives of AskART]