Rixford Upham Jennings

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Rixford "Rix" Upham Jennings (American, 1906-1996) was a noted Western New York artist, painter, commercial illustrator, designer, etcher and teacher. Rix was born February 26, 1906 and was raised in East Aurora, NY. He was the son of Walter Upham Jennings (American, 1878-1963), a skilled coppersmith (“Chaser” hand-tooler) and master bookbinder at the Roycroft Campus, founded by writer-philosopher & businessman Elbert Hubbard.

Rix studied at the Albright Art School in Buffalo, NY (when it was still located in the basement), the Buffalo School of Fine Arts, the Buffalo Art Institute, and later furthered his studies at the Art Center in Los Angeles, CA. His professional career as a commercial artist started in the mid 1920’s and in 1928, he had designed stained glass windows for the St. Matthias Episcopal Church in East Aurora, NY. By 1938, he was a member of the Buffalo Print Club and had his first exhibit with them that year in their National show, later becoming treasurer in 1940. Between the years of 1940-41, he entered the animation school at Walt Disney Studios in Anaheim, CA. After training, Rix was moved onto an animation team where he was an “Inbetweener”. During his time there, he mostly worked on the classic 1941 Disney animated movie Dumbo (mainly the lady elephants at the circus), as well as also on the iconic 1940 movie Fantasia (for the sequence involving the centaurettes) which was a box office failure at the time, and Bambi (1942). After the animators' strike in the spring of 1941, Rix could no longer afford to stay there since he wasn't getting paid his normal salary and was only receiving union pay. Rix moved back to WNY in mid 1941 and began teaching art classes at the University of Buffalo during the summer term. It was at one of his classes that he met his future wife, fellow artist Sydney (née Owen) Jennings (American, 1920-2001) who was one of the pupils in his watercolor class. Rix and Sydney married in 1944 and later settled in Rix's hometown of East Aurora, NY, raising their three children Rixford O., Andrew W. and Elizabeth “Liza”. Rix also maintained an art studio at 374 Delaware Ave. in Buffalo where he worked doing advertising illustrations which have appeared in numerous local newspapers, magazines and publications as well as most of the nation's top magazines, including Fortune.

A versatile and prolific artist for over seventy years, he is primarily known for his landscape and cityscape watercolors, but also worked in oils, charcoal, pastels, pen & ink, lithography, etching, woodcarving, tile painting and stained glass design. He traveled extensively and painted in New York City, Grand Teton National Park, New England as well as Western New York. He taught art classes at the University at Buffalo for ten years at the summer art sessions and held a position on the board of directors of the Professional Art Guild of Buffalo. He also taught classes at the Art Institute of Buffalo and out of his home studio in East Aurora, NY.

He was a member of and exhibited with the American Watercolor Society (AWCS), the Buffalo Society of Artists (BSA), the Patteran Society of Artists, the Buffalo Print Club (Exhibited 1938 National Show, BPC Treasurer, 1940), East Aurora Paint and Varnish Club (c.1904-c.1935), the Niagara Frontier Watercolor Society (NFWS), the Scriptors Club of Buffalo, the Philadelphia Watercolor Club, the Maine Art Association, Goose Rocks Beach Art Association, ME, and was affiliated with the New York Watercolor Club (NYWC). He served as president of both the BSA (From 1943-46) and the Patteran Society and was one of the founding members of the Roycrofters-at-Large Association (RALA). He designed the RALA Renaissance trademark which is still in use today.

In East Aurora, he contributed numerous art works to various public and professional buildings within the town. He designed the East Aurora village seal, a series of murals at the local Aurora Town Hall (depicting the history of East Aurora) and the graphics for the Town’s 1968 sesquicentennial celebration. He also completed murals featuring the Iroquois Nation, at the Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY. He has done illustrations for the West Point Academy yearbook, and the first ten years of covers for the WNY magazine, Buffalo Spree.

Exhibited at: The Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (their annual exhibit of WNY artists), Buffalo, NY, the Wilcox Mansion, Buffalo, NY, the Keenan Center, Lockport, NY, Meibohm Fine Arts, East Aurora, NY, the headquarters for Fisher-Price (Mattel), East Aurora, NY, the Art Institute of Chicago (1939), IL, the Chicago Watercolor Club, IL, the AWS & the NYWC galleries, NY, Kennebunk, ME, the Walt Disney School Gallery, and Princeton University.

He won numerous awards over the course of his career including the Award of Merit by the American Watercolor Society, the gold, silver & bronze medals at the BSA as well as the popularity prize, and best drawing in a W.N.Y. exhibition.

Rix died on January 20th, 1996 at the age of 89 in Mercy Hospital, Buffalo, NY, after a brief illness.

For additional information on this artist or for other possible examples of his works, please visit the AskArt link

(Rewritten & Compiled by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY, meibohmfinearts.com, sources: Furnished upon request.)