John Austin (1918-2001)

Born in North Carolina, John Austin’s youth was spent in New Jersey. He raised his family in Connecticut, before settling in Nantucket.

Austin studied at the Art Students’ League in NYC under Reginald Marsh and was subsequently mentored by Edward Hopper during two years in Truro and New York. As a commercial artist, Austin designed floats for the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parades. As a WWII serviceman, he produced training manuals for the Army. During his tour, he was constantly compiling sketchbooks that recorded European cities, the countryside and troops.

Post War, Austin returned again to the Art Students League, where he met his wife. By the early 60’s, he had taken up painting full time.  With a preference for egg tempera, he produced representational paintings that recorded place:  the shore, barns, and cottages of Cape Cod, Maine and New Hampshire.

The Nantucket body of work is substantial, and entirely reflective of the locale. Austin began exhibiting at the Lobster Pot Gallery, before moving on to Reggie Levine’s Main Street Gallery, where he remained until the gallery closed, in the late 1990’s.

John Austin was a keen draftsman, preferring to sketch out his line drawings in situ, where he made studied color notations. His paintings were developed in studio. From the Chicken Box to the Pence School, from pilot houses to cranberry harvests, Austin’s paintings captured the laid-back flavor of Nantucket culture.  House portraits and commissioned works were his specialty, as Austin thoroughly relished the social exchange with his clients and collectors.  Commemorative ships portraits, presented by the US Nantucket Coast Guard to retiring officers, earned Austin an honorary post in the Guard.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis collected Austin’s work, as did Mrs. Paul Mellon and Joyce & Seward Johnson.  In 1996, a high point in his career, Sotheby’s sold two Austin paintings from the estate of Mrs. Onassis – a Brant Point close-up and a Tuckernuck landscape – for , 900 and ,450 respectively.

John Austin’s paintings remain in the permanent collection of the Nantucket Historical Association, and are a treasured presence in many Island households. ~ Carolyn Walsh

Recent Examples at Auction