Jenness Cortez


Jenness Cortez Biography

American, b. 1944

Jenness Cortez is a distinguished figure in the contemporary revival of classical realist painting.

She was born in Indiana and exhibited a very early talent for art. As a teenager, she took private lessons with Antonius Raemaekers, a well-trained Dutch-born painter and superb teacher whose early instruction continues to influence her work. By choosing to study at the Herron School of Art, one of the oldest independent professional schools of art in America, Cortez received a rigorous five year training in all technical aspects of art making. To add to her store of technical mastery, Cortez then went to New York to study at the Art Students League under  another gifted teacher, Arnold Blanch, whose influence on the young art student was profound.

Throughout her remarkable career Cortez has become proficient in a variety of subject matter including sporting and wildlife art, landscape, portraiture, interiors and still-life. Early in her career she worked as an editorial illustrator and etcher, then returned to her love of painting, with animals as her primary subject matter. For twenty years (1977-1996) she became world renown for skillfully portraying horses––most notably, thoroughbred racehorses.  In the mid-1990s an interest in broadening the challenges of her work, Cortez moved from horses to landscapes, then to cityscapes and at last to interiors and still life painting where her focus remains today.

At the beginning of the 21st century, Cortez began concentrating on a form of still life painting inspired by the age-old tradition of “art in art.” In 2003, the “Homage to the Creative Spirit” series became her primary mode of expression. This tradition was most notably employed by such 17th-century Dutch artists as Johannes Vermeer, usually to impart a hidden meaning to astute viewers. Similarly, Cortez’s paintings offer layered meanings built on specific themes. She starts with an iconic masterwork and surrounds it with meticulously rendered book covers, photographs, sculpture, antiques, and other objects with cultural or historic significance. Each intricate Cortez creation challenges the viewers’ intellectual curiosity and celebrates the sheer pleasure of beautiful painting.

In her work, Cortez plays author, architect, visual journalist, art historian, curator and pundit to help open our eyes to what we might otherwise have overlooked or taken for granted. Each painting presents a specific theme, mixing straightforward cues and obscure illusions, complemented by references to other artists' lives and times.  Each of her works touches upon important questions about the nature of painting and the significance of art objects, and presents subtle shades of meaning that invite contemplation.

By depicting iconic artworks in her own paintings, Cortez underscores a classic paradox of realism: the painting as a “window” into an imagined space, and as a physical object; both a metaphysical presence and a material entity.

Jenness Cortez has been exhibiting her work since 1975, and has had more than 40 solo shows throughout the United States. Her work is in numerous public and private collections including those of the late-President Ronald Reagan, President Bill Clinton, Governor George Pataki, Governor Hugh Carey, HM Queen Elizabeth II, the New York State Museum, Skidmore College, and SUNY Empire State College.

Herron School of Art, Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN
Trained under Dutch painter, Antonius Raemaekers,
Art Students League, New York, NY

May 16-Jun 10, 2017, MIXED: Group Exhibition, New York, NY
Mar 20-Apr 28, 2017, Contemporary Still Life, New York, NY
Nov 1-Dec 2, 2016, Cavalier Galleries 30th Anniversary, New York, NY
Apr 6-May 20, 2016, Spring Group Exhibition, New York, NY
Jan 22-Feb 29, 1016, American Paintings: 150 Years of Exceptional Representational Works, Greenwich, CT
Oct 15-Dec 15, 2015, American Realism: Past and Present, Cavalier Galleries, New York, NY
2014, Summer Group Exhibition, Cavalier Galleries, Greenwich, CT

President Ronald Reagan
President Bill Clinton
HM Queen Elizabeth, II
Ambassador True Davis
Mr. Henry Kravis
Mr. Ogden Mills Phipps
Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney
Congressman Gerald Solomon
Gov. George Pataki
Gov. Hugh Carey
Atlanta Braves general manager John Schuerholz
Mr. Jerry Weintraub

New York State Museum
Fluor Corporation
Saratoga Harness, Inc.,
Skidmore College
SUNY Empire State College
Waterford Museum
Albany Institute of History and Art