James E. Allen, American Artist (A Thumbnail Sketch)

Patricia Parmelee, original available in this exhibit and the Stanford Digital Repository

James E. Allen was born February 23, 1894 in Louisiana, Missouri, first child of William H. and Annie May (Scoggins) Allen. When Jim was still a babe, his father transplanted the family to the Montana mountains where he (the father) became one of the state's early lumbermen and, also, a fantastic hunters' mountain guide. A brother, Elmer LeRoy was born in 1896.

During his rugged pioneer boyhood two great desires began to "burn" in Jim, - to fly and to paint. Early he built a glider and flew in it. (Later, during World War I, he became a Lieutenant pilot in the A.E.F. in England and France).

At 17, he left home and headed eastward in pursuit of his dream to paint. The early aim was to become a fine illustrator. This he accomplished in the 20's, painting from models in his studio-home in Interlaken, New Jersey between the two big magazine publishing centers, New York city and Philadelphia. Soon maintaining a second studio in N.Y.C., he became a high-ranking regular illustrator for leading magazines of the day.

Already his sights had lifted with the driving urge to work in the realm of pure art and, above all, to paint! He became an outstanding etcher and lithographer, but was already forging forward with painting. Following intensive study with Hans Hoffman and with his customary drive to blaze trails, he produced during the 40's two strikingly original series of paintings in which he was exploring new dimensions. In the first series he used mountain peaks and ranges as forms, in the other, idealized nudes and horses. This series was exhibited. in a one-man show in the Frank Rehns Gallery in New York in October, 1950 with favorable reviews. But these were just the first steps in the direction that his creative experience was driving him. At this point his health broke completely and his career ended. (His demise was in 1964.)

At every step of his career he was an inspired and indefatigable worker. He refused to give anything but the best that was in him. He drove himself unmercifully. Depression years forward him to fulfill commercial contracts in the execution of which he never relaxed his standards but, all the while, his soul cried out to paint, to delve deeper and reach higher in realms of pure art expression.

His inspiration and imagination were unbounded and yet, at the same time, they were reined in by a most unusual capacity for scientific research which literally forced him to become an expert in whatever he was tackling.

Never did Jim Allen let technique bury his fire. When, at any moment he felt hampered by lack of "know how", he turned instinctively to someone who could supply it till again he was free from limitation and equipped to go forward. Furthermore, he was an avid reader and student of the great art expressions of the ages. Thus, his art education though brief at the outset (Art Academy in Chicago) was a continuous and progressive experience.

He was instinctively propelled through his life and career, and there is no question that his ultimate attainment would have been very great had his progress not been so sadly interrupted.

This, like an "unfinished symphony", is the story of James E. Allen -- American Artist.

  • Patricia Parmelee (Miss)

  • 2800 Camules Place

  • Los Angeles, California 90023

  • (sister of Mrs. James E. Allen)

  • 41 A Mayhew Avenue

  • Larchmont, New York 10538