Longtime Valley photographer, artist dies

A memorial service is 10 a.m. Thursday for longtime Carson Valley artist and photographer James A. Lawrence, who died April 7, 2006, at his Gardnerville home. He was 95.

The service is at the United Methodist Church, Centerville Lane in Gardnerville.

For 58 years, along with his wife, artist and art teacher Geraldine, he used both a camera and paintbrush to capture the sights and feelings of the Valley.

The Lawrences raised four boys and a girl in the Valley and worked to promote the arts and artists of the Valley.

"Gerry" Lawrence was a guiding force in the founding of the Carson Valley Art Association in August 1976 with the first meeting taking place at the Lawrence studios. James, in his capacity as a professional artist and photographer, agreed to act as art consultant to advise the members of the association. In the beginning, weekly workshops were held in Gerry Lawrence's studio.

James Lawrence was born May 23, 1910, in San Mateo, Calif., and spent his early years on a big ranch in Mendocino County, Calif.

He graduated from high school in 1929 and continued his education at the University of California, Davis. He planned to be a rancher but soon turned his sights to landscape design. While attending the university, he met Nevada resident Cecil Stodieck, who introduced him to the area.

After college, he sought practical experience in the arts from an illustrator in the San Francisco Bay area, working there for a year before continuing on to more formal training at Art Center School for three years and a year at the prestigious Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. Later he studied a year with the Art Students League in New York. He returned to the Carson Valley and spent a year living in a sheep shack on the Virginia Ranch with his dog using the entire year for painting and photographing the area.

Before World War II he tried to enlist in the service but an old back injury kept him out of the military. He had hoped to be a military photographer and since that wasn't a possibility for him he traveled extensively in Mexico and the Southwest developing his art and producing a book of photographs of native life. After a year he returned to San Francisco, spending the next 15 years as a commercial artist and photographer.

He spent a year in New York working for Pagano, Inc. the largest commercial photography firm in the U.S. at the time. During this time he dedicated himself to learning every aspect of the business of commercial photography as a livelihood while still painting as an avocation. While in New York he had his first one man art show. Upon his return to San Francisco, he managed to turn his commercial art studio into one of the most successful agencies on the West Coast including most of the photography for Sunset Magazine during those years.

In 1945, Lawrence purchased the Rock Creek Ranch but it would be another four years before he could make a break from his business in San Francisco to live in the Valley.

He was a member of the National Watercolor Society and was listed in "Who's Who in American Art" and Who's Who in Art on the West Coast." His worked has been exhibited in many national galleries.

Geraldine preceded James in death March 17, 2001. He is survived by his sons, James S. Lawrence, Christopher Lawrence and his wife Elizabeth, Jeffery Lawrence and his wife Mary, Bruce Lawrence and his wife Brenda; his daughter Sarah Lawrence as well as five grandchildren and three great-granchildren.


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