Gerald Harvey Jones, a former industrial arts teacher who would go on to become one of America’s most highly regarded painters by creating masterpieces that hearkened back to simpler times when virtues such as faith, courage, patriotism, hard work, and compassion were revered, has died. He was 84.
“G. Harvey,” as he was known to his fans and collectors, was a friend of mine, as he was to many around Focus on the Family. A man of incredible generosity, Gerald began a tradition in 1987 of commissioning a yearly painting for the ministry, which we were then able to make available to our friends.
Over the years, G. Harvey paintings helped raise tens of millions of dollars, all of which enabled our organization to minister to hundreds of millions of families both here in the United States and all around the world.
Gerald is survived by his wife, Patty, to whom he was married for over 63 years, his two children, Gerald Jones Jr. (Karlene) and Pamela (Tim), as well as four grandchildren. It would be impossible to overstate the Jones family’s kindness to the ministry.
Several decades ago, Gerald suggested holding an auction for some of his paintings at the famed Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs, with all the proceeds split between Focus and Young Life. He insisted on paying all of the related costs, including the frames for the prized paintings.
Born in 1933 in San Antonio, Gerald’s Texas upbringing helped form and fuel his future works of art, much of which centered on western landscapes, horses and cowboys.
Although he showed artistic promise as a young boy, Gerald originally pursued a career as a junior high school art teacher. It wasn’t until Patty, his newlywed wife, bought him four or five tubes of paint on his birthday that he decided to try and see if he had the chops to make a career of his passion.
“After dabbling for a while, I took some of my paintings to Dewey Bradford, a local arts dealer, who took me on a tutoring basis for three years,” Gerald once reflected. “He bought everything I painted and tutored me on various techniques.”
Acclaimed far and wide, the apex of Gerald’s career was his show, “The All-American Horse,” at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History which ran for one year, an extraordinary achievement almost unprecedented for a living artist.
Gerald poured himself into his work, sparing no detail. In order to make sure his paintings were as realistic as possible, the young artist went to live in cowboy bunkhouses for weeks on end.
“I woke up with the cowboys, warmed myself by their campfires, drank their coffee and saw the same sunrises and sunsets they did along with seeing everything in between,” he recalled. “So, although I was a professional painter, I was able to paint from the perspective of my subjects.”
While a man of enormous artistic talent, it was Gerald’s gentle spirit and deep reverence for Jesus that impressed me the most during our time together. He always left you feeling inspired, uplifted and encouraged. His works reflected the reverence, the awe and the wonder with which he embraced the Creator.
My dear friend and former Focus on the Family board member, Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, reflected:
“Knowing Gerald (G.) Harvey Jones was an awesome privilege for me. He was one of the most gifted artists and yet so humble, genuine, and kind. Anyone who knew him loved him, admired him, and so greatly appreciated his gifts and talents. His expression of God’s beauty in his paintings through his use of light and his warmth are very obvious. Many of his works depict the history of America and also family values – horse riding together, Christmas caroling or perhaps viewing one our storied national parks. Every painting told a wonderful story.”
My colleague Tim Goeglein reflected:
“The thing I have always loved about G. Harvey’s paintings is that they are a celebration of the beautiful, the just, and the true on canvas. Harvey embraces the ‘everydayness’ of life and finds joy and goodness in it. In Focus on the Family’s Washington, D.C., office, we have a number of his paintings hanging on the walls. Guests to our office will often remark on a small feature in the paintings that touches them deeply: a snow-covered mountain peak, a valley in full-bloom, a horse in a river. It is all God’s created beauty.”
“Of One Spirit” is perhaps Gerald’s most famous painting, a work he created in 1988 to commemorate the lives of four friends of Focus on the Family who died tragically in a plane crash following a ministry retreat. The men depicted include Focus board member Hugo Schoellkopf, George Clark, Dr. Trevor Mabery and Reverend Creath Davis.
One of my favorite G. Harvey paintings that Gerald commissioned for the ministry was the very first one he did for us back in 1987. It was titled, ”The Bond of Faith,” and it features a rural church in winter’s twilight. Horses are standing idly out front in the snow along with a carriage. The doors of the church are wide open and the people, including children, who you can only see in silhouette, are making their way into the sanctuary.
Is it Christmas Eve? A special late-day prayer meeting? It doesn’t matter.
The painting captures the cohesive nature of the Christian Church. Yes, the Church is imperfect because people are imperfect, but while the wind and cold may rattle outside its window, the warmth of congregational fellowship and the truth of the Gospel draws all inside its doors. It is the bond of our faith that brings us together, a fact that led Samuel J. Stone to pen these timeless words to the beloved hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation”:
The Church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord, to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish,
Is with her to the end.
Though there be those that hate her.
False sons within her pale,
Against both foe and traitor
She ever shall prevail.
Gerald Harvey Jones made masterpieces with the finite palate of colors available to him on earth. Yet, he did it all seeing “only a reflection as in a mirror” (1 Cor. 13:12). Now that he sees the Lord “face to face,” one can only imagine what our dear friend could be painting today.
Do you have a favorite G. Harvey painting? Please let me know.