John Yerger

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John Allen Yerger (American, 1935-2017) was a Western New York artist, teacher, juror and art critic. He was a native of Buffalo, NY and had worked as a professional artist for most of his adult life. He was known for his objet d’art miniature paintings, landscapes, still lifes, and in more recent years, a series of trompe l’oeil paintings, which are fitting tributes to America’s most legendary artists.

John was born on July 27, 1935 to Lloyd Yerger, a pianist and engineer for the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation and accomplished watercolor painter Dorothy Yerger. John studied art at Nardin Academy and the Art Institute of Buffalo, NY. According to his sons, Scott and Mark Yerger, he enlisted in the Air Force in the mid 1950's and served part of his enlistment in Morocco. When he returned from service, he furthered his studies at the prestigious Vesper George School of Art in Boston, MA, where he learned the academic painting techniques favored by American and European masters.

For about 20 years, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, he worked in the shipping and receiving department of Sisters of Charity Hospital. John's first local exhibition, a two-person show of paintings, was held at the University at Buffalo in 1965 and was followed the next year by a solo show at D'Youville College. At that time and for much of his career, Yerger was dedicated to landscape painting in the style of Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth.

He continued to hone his style over the years, working in relative obscurity and beginning to take on students in the 1980s, until he hit upon his technique in the early 1990s. His works, while evolving over the years in the technique of miniature objet d’art, slowly started to incorporate elements of trompe l’oeil and in more recent years, he had devoted himself exclusively to this technique which 'fools the eye'. The trompe l'oeil approach allowed Yerger to fuse his technical prowess as a painter with his deep interest in art history. The technique involves extremely realistic imagery to create an optical illusion that the depicted objects really exist, instead of actually being a two-dimensional painting. Tapping into the sensation of wonderment he experienced as a young man upon first seeing the works of American painters like Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer and Albert Bierstadt at Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Yerger melded his meticulous technical facility with a deeply personal source of inspiration.

"Yerger has mastered not only the formulae of Trompe l’oeil but also through his profound study and love of the history of American art, has paid homage to that history by incorporating it into his still-life paintings. That love is all-encompassing, as he has reproduced, even duplicated, though not always partially, the romantic portraits of Gilbert Stuart and Rembrandt Peale, the quiet exactitude of Asher B. Durand and the Hudson River School, the panoramic vastness of Albert Bierstadt, the luminescent landscapes of Sanford Gifford, the fresh naturalism of Winslow Homer’s country imagery, the high-style portraiture of John Singer Sargent, the brilliantly-colored maternalism of Mary Cassatt, and the impressionist light, air, and color of Frank Benson-all expressed within the bounds of Traditional trompe l’oeil, and yet with the sure knowledge, ability, and passion of each artists’ creative process."[1]

In 2003, Yerger along with fellow Western New York artist Richard F. Kersting (American, 1937-) formed the Miniature Art Society of Western New York upon the realization that a miniaturist art group did not exist in New York State (currently no longer active). The Society, limited to only ten members, followed the standards of contemporary miniaturism shared by a small number of organizations in the U.S. and abroad. The Society focused on miniature objet d’art which is a venerable and universally appealing art form, respected by serious collectors world-wide.

The Miniature Art Society of Western New York former members included:

Joe Eger
Bernadette Franklin
Jose Fuentes
Richard Kersting
Robert Masak
Coni Minneci
Vicki Vitale
John Yerger


Yerger's work reached a new level of recognition in 2007, when Buffalo art dealer Dana Tillou and his brother, Peter, organized an exhibition of his paintings in the Adelson Galleries in New York City. As a result of that show, Yerger's homage to Wyeth was purchased by the esteemed Brandywine River Museum in Cadds Ford, PA.

Aside from his late-career painting, which seems to be gaining increased attention, Yerger made a marked impact on local art students. He taught numerous students out of his own home studio as well as in association with Partners in Art, the North Tonawanda gallery and school. "Working with John was like going to a professional art school without having to go to a professional art school,"[2] said Partners in Art co-founder Joan Horn. "John was a gentle soul and an amazing talent, and he shared that with so many people over the years."[3] Coni Minneci, one of Yerger's most committed students, praised her mentor for his patience and generosity with those who were committed to putting in the necessary work. "He just raised you up,"[4] Minneci said. "You always had to try harder. He was really encouraging to those who persevered and wanted to work hard."[5]

Yerger had other passions aside from painting, to which his sons said he was similarly dedicated. He was an accomplished athlete, an expert in astronomy who built his own telescope and a devotee of the art of bonsai.


Chronology:

1935- July 27, born, to pianist & engineer Lloyd Yerger and accomplished watercolor painter Dorothy Yerger, Buffalo, NY.

Mid 1950's- John enlisted in the Air Force and served part of his enlistment in Morocco.

1965- John's first local exhibition, two-person, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY.

1966-Exhibited, solo show, D'Youville College, Buffalo, NY.

1994- Exhibited at “Francisco Marin-Price Contemporary paintings and sculpture by American and European artists”, featured works by several American & European artists, Marin-Price Galleries, Chevy Chase, MD.

1999- Exhibited at “The Little Picture Show III”, featured works by several artists, Schaff Gallery, Cincinnati, OH.

2000- Exhibited at “The Little Picture Show IV”, two man show, Schaff Gallery, Cincinnati, OH.

2003- Yerger, along with cofounder Richard F. Kersting formed The Miniature Art Society of Western New York (no longer active), Buffalo, NY.

2004- Exhibited with “The Miniature Art Society of Western New York Premier Exhibition”, Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc, East Aurora, NY, which showcased eight charter members of the Society: John Yerger, Joe Eger, Bernadette Franklin, Jose Fuentes, Richard Kersting, Robert Masak, Coni Minneci, and Vicki Vitale.

2005- Exhibited at the First Annual “International Guild of Realism Juried Exhibition”, which featured works by 21 artists from around the world at the Pan American Art Gallery, Dallas, TX. Exhibited at “Partners & Friends”, featured works by thirteen artists, Partners In Art Gallery, N. Tonawanda, NY.

2007- November 20-December 21, exhibited, solo show, “John Yerger American Art in Trompe l’oeil”, organized by Dana Tillou and brother Peter Tillou, Adelson Galleries, New York, NY.

2014- October 17-November 15, exhibited, group show, "Trompe l'oeil: Masters of Deception", John Yerger and students, Meibohm Fine Arts, East Aurora, NY. Link to Exhibition Page

2017- July 19, John passed away at the age of eight-one, and a Mass of Christian Burial was held at St. Margaret R.C. Church, 1395 Hertel Ave., Buffalo, NY. October 20 - November 18, exhibition, group show, "Masters of Illusion – The Art of Trompe L’oeil: Take a Second Look", 21 artists including work by John Yerger as tribute, Meibohm Fine Arts, East Aurora, NY.


Exhibited also at: Copley Society of Art, Boston, MA.

Memberships: The Miniature Art Society of Western New York (former member), Buffalo, NY.

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(Rewritten in parts with additions & compiled chronologically by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY, meibohmfinearts.com, sources: John Yerger American Art in Trompe l’oeil, and quote [1] from “Seeing Double” by Dr. William Gerdts, exhibition catalog November 20th, 2007, Dana Tillou & Peter Tillou, Adelson Galleries, New York, NY; buffalonews.com, obituary article, various excerpts used and quotes [2], [3], [4] & [5], Buffalo News, "John A. Yerger, 81, master of trompe l'oeil painting", by Colin Dabkowski, July 21, 2017; Wikipedia; Cincinnati.com events archives; citybeat.com archives)

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