Serl, Jon

Jon Serl had many creative talents that were apparent from an early age, but only came to painting later in his life. He was born in 1894 in Olean, New York, to a theatrical, vaudevillian family. He took up performance as a profession as well, working as a singer, dancer, actor, female impersonator, voice-over artist, and screenwriter.
Jon Serl took up painting after many years as a farmhand, chef, and performer on the vaudeville stage. One day, he suddenly walked off a film set and quit everything. He eventually settled in San Juan Capistrano, and in 1949 at the age of 55, he began to paint out of a kind of necessity. There was a painting that he wanted to buy, and as Serl recounted, “They wanted fifty dollars for it,” Serl said. “I didn’t have fifty cents, so I painted my own.”

Serl used a variety of media for his work, including plywood and pigments made from plants and earth. He refused to show or sell his work until the 1970s. By his death in 1993, Serl’s oeuvre surpassed 1200 pieces. He always loved an audience, and to the end of his long life (he died at 99) he enjoyed the adulation of the art world and all those friends who came to listen to his fanciful tales.

Jon Serl
1894 Olean, New York, USA - 1993 USA