James Routh

American , 1918 -

James Routh recieved his art education at the famed Art Students’ League in New York where he studied from 1936 to 1940, as well as holding the job of sweeping the League building’s floors from “top to bottom” to pay for his continuing studies. This chore had it’s reward as he was often able to observe John Sloan at work as he swept out “the great one’s fifth floor studio”. In his last year at the league Routh was granted a full tuition scholarship. One day he found himself sitting alongside a “round-faced man wearing an overcoat with pockets stuffed with sketching pads;” only later did Routh learn that his sketching partner was Reginald March. During his tenure at The League Raphael Soyer was Routh’s principal painting instructor, Harry Sternberg his Graphic Arts teacher and he also studied briefly with Isabel Bishop. Routh would spend half his days in instruction at the League and the remainder in the print room of the Metropolitan studying the master print collection. It was Will Barnet who influenced Routh’s interest in lithography. Barnet was then the League Printer and Routh assisted Barnet as he learned the art of lithography. Barnet printed some of Routh’s early stones. While at the League Routh was sketching the New York scene, but he knew “if I intended to say something worthwhile it would have to be about things I know and understand”. That’s when “I sat down before a lithographic stone at the League and made a drawing of the countryside and people I remembered in the South”. This was Routh’s first print, “Blue Ridge Farm”, 1940 and was printed by Barnet with Routh assisting. In 1940 Routh was awarded a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship “for creative work in painting, especially to depict Negro and rural scenes in the South. He traveled Depression mired Dixie in a beat-up Ford drawing and painting the reality of the Negro, southerners and rural scenes he encountered and knew. These scenes which included cotton pickers, ramshackle churches and houses with billowing clotheslines all appear in Routh’s imagery.
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