Written by Denise Collingwood, Struthers Historical Society


Paul Jenkins
(July 12, 1923 – June 9, 2012)

Paul Jenkins has been described as a colorful Abstract Expressionist who for several decades carried on its highly physical tradition of manipulating paint and canvas.

William Paul Jenkins was born during a lightning storm on July 12, 1923 in Kansas City, Missouri. He was the son of William B. Jenkins and Nadyne Fellers.

In his teenage years, Jenkins moved to Struthers, Ohio to live with his mother, Nadyne Herrick, and stepfather. The Herrick's owned and operated the Struthers, Campbell and Lowellville Journals. After graduating from Struthers High School, he served in the U.S. Maritime Service and entered the U.S. Naval Air Corps during World War II. In 1948, he moved to New York City where, on the G.I. Bill, he studied at the Art Students League of New York for four years. In 1953, he traveled to Europe, working for three months in Taormina in Sicily before settling in Paris. From 1955 on, the artist shared his time between New York and Paris.

Jenkin's first solo exhibition took place in 1945 at Studio Paul Facchetti on the rue de Lille, Paris, France. The same year, The Pioneering Garrery of Zoe Dusanne of Seattle, Washington hosted his first US solo exhibition. Over the years, his work has been shown worldwide at majoy galleries and museums in Tokyo, London, New York, Paris and Amsterdam.

Jenkins gained notoriety when his paintings appeared in the Academy Award nominated 1978 movie An Unmarried Woman directed by Paul Mazursky. A selection of Jenkins' works from the fifties are featured in the 1998 film A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries from the novel by Kaylie Jones.

“I have conversations with them,” he said of his paintings, “and they tell me what they want to be called.”

“I try to paint like a crapshooter throwing dice, utilizing past experience and my knowledge of the odds,” he said in 1964. “It’s a big gamble, and that’s why I love it.”

By 1970, his art career had provided him a glamorous life, divided between France and New York City.

Paul Jenkins died at the age of 88 on June 9, 2012, after a short illness. Left to grieve his death, his wife, Suzanne and daughter, Hillarie.

Jenkins’ work can be found in many international museums and collections. He gifted several of his paintings to the Struthers Historical Society. The Butler Art Museum in Youngstown also owns many of his works.

Philippe Huguen/Agence France-Presse Getty Images
Mr. Jenkins in front of one of his paintings in 2005, when the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille, France, held a show of his works, which carried on the physical style of the New York School.