About the Artist: Born in Galesburg, IL, Sharp grew up in Eldon, IA and showed a talent for art at an early age, matriculating at the University of Iowa in 1928. While a student he met curator Edward Rowan and painter Grant Wood, both of whom would become important figures in the regional art movement, co-founding the Stone City Art Colony. At age nineteen, taking Wood on a driving tour of Eldon, Sharp showed him the house that would figure in the iconic painting American Gothic. Sharp studied at the Stone City colony for a short period before relocating to New York, where he attended the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design. It was during this period in the early 1930s that Sharp met his lifelong partner, the painter Paul Crosthwaite. The two relocated to an established art scene in Buck’s County, PA. Besides his work in the WPA easel division, Sharp was chosen to create three murals for post offices in Iowa: “Autumn” (1940), in Bloomfield; “Summer” (1941), in Rockwell City; “Winter” (1942), in Haywarden. While all show the regionalist influence of Wood, Sharp also had a distinctive sense of humor. His painting “We All Hang Together” mashes up domestic folk art and a Benjamin Franklin epigram; his landscape painting at the NDG features what appears to be a herd of cows but actually is dinosaurs. Still, his taste for surreality did not stand in the way of commercial success. Sharp was called “a skillful factualist who loves the textures of barns, flowers, leaves, shells, and old roots” (Benson). He was commissioned to render portraits of New York theater actors; his paintings were chosen for a traveling Hallmark Art Award exhibition (1951) and appeared on the cover of Colliers magazine (“P.O. Mural”). Sharp and Crosthwaite moved to Florida full-time by the mid-1950s, continuing their work while instructing younger artists. 3 works at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. 3 post office murals for the Treasury Section of Fine Arts. 1 work at Chrysler Museum of Art. 1 work at Smithsonian American Art Museum. 2 works at the Michener Art Museum. 5 images at Stone City Art Colony. 6 more images at FAP.
Works Consulted: Gertrude Benson, “Dynamic Oils and Sculpture at Academy,” Philadelphia Inquirer 25 Jan. 1953: 17; “P.O. Mural is Hung Tuesday,” Haywarden Independent 28 May 1942: 1; Kristy Raine, et al., “John Sharp,” Stone City Art Colony and School, web.
Cooper, Ken (biography)