James Havard first gained recognition in the 1970s for pioneering the Abstract Illusionist movement, a style of painting where forms on the picture plane were shaded to appear three-dimensional. The movement included artists such as Al Held and Allan D'Arcangelo. By the 1980s and 1990s, Havard returned to figuration, creating works inspired by Art Brut masters such as Jean Dubuffet. Richly colored, collaged and carved in encaustics, these works are raw, rudimentary and elemental, drawing inspiration from Native American, African and Caribbean tribal cultures, cave paintings and children's drawings. Havard also made mixed media box constructions offering another area of experimentation in his incredibly prolific forty-year career.
James Havard was born in 1937 in Galveston, Texas. He earned a BA from Sam Houston State College in Huntville, Texas in 1959 and attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia from 1961 - 1965. During the 1960s and 1970s Havard traveled extensively throughout Europe and lived in France, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, and the Caribbean island of Tortola where he had a second home. He lived in New York in the 1970s and 1980s before moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico permanently in 1989. He has exhibited extensively for over forty years in the United States and Europe. His work is included in the permanent public collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum NY, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Museum, the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm, Sweden, among others. He now lives in Pennsylvania.