John Atherton (1900-1952) was born on June 7, 1900 in Brainerd, Minnesota, but his family moved to the West Coast shortly after his birth. John spent his high school years in Spokane, Washington, where he derived great satisfaction from nature. These elements would emerge in Atherton’s oil paintings as well as his commercial work in the years to come. Nature would also become a place in which John could collect his thoughts and refresh his creativity.
Atherton’s first recollection of an interest in art came when he painted a portrait of his aunt and received a favorable response. John completed his art education from the California College of Arts in San Francisco. In the process, he also worked in the surrounding studios developing his oil painting techniques. A first prize award of five hundred dollars financed John’s trip to New York, which helped launch his career. Atherton accomplished his first one-man show in Manhattan in 1936. His Painting, “The Black Horse” won the three thousand dollar fourth prize from among 14,000 entries. This painting now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
As his career began to unfold, John Atherton found a rhythm that allowed him to develop his work in the both the artistic and the advertising arena. On November 2, 1926, he married Maxine Breese. Over time, the couple found themselves migrating to Westport, Connecticut which boasted an artistic community that rivaled none other. John Atherton’s first cover for The Saturday Evening Post was created in 1942, and continued with regularity until 1961. After a grand tour of the United States, this would become home for John’s wife Maxine and daughter Mary. The Atherton’s socialized with fellow artist, Mead Schaeffer and his wife which often lead to a variety of excursions which provided subjects to expound upon on canvas. The community provided not only a social outlet, but also a creative environment to cultivate and express his ideas.
It seems fitting that John Carleton Atherton would die as he lived, in tune with nature. His death occurred while he was salmon fishing in New Brunswick, Canada in 1952 at age 52.