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Born April 16, 1918, in Petersburg, Va., little is known about Traylor’s early life, though it’s suggested that he didn’t hail from an artistic household or beginnings. His father was an electrician, who moved the family to Los Angeles in the early 1930s, where Traylor began his adult life working in positions ranging from grocery clerk and gas attendant, to highway worker. Although it is assumed that he always practiced or studied art in some capacity, the first recordings appear at age 19, in 1937, when he served as a sho-card artist, and again in 1940, when he served as assistant to the art director for Los Angeles City College, where he graduated with honors. Following his service amid WWII as an aviation radio operator, Traylor was invited to study at Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris, which he did under the G.I. Bill. He also attended Chouinard Art Institute and Jepson Art Institute, both in Los Angeles. At Jepson, he served as the personal assistant to the famous, mid-century artist, Rico Lebrun, where he earned Lebrun’s respect so greatly that, in 1950, he was asked to help finish one of his famous works: The Crucifixion. During the 1950s, Traylor worked for Northrop Aviation, as well as a number of nationally distributed comic strips, including Ella Cinders, Napoleon and Tarzan, and also produced illustrations for The New Yorker.

Traylor’s more-than-50-year career is filled with countless awards and honors, more than 30 exhibits and numerous private collections. About the only thing he enjoyed as much as art may have been teaching, which he did in both private and scholastic capacities. Left sterile by the radioactive effects associated with his service as a radio operator, teaching may have been Traylor’s way of parenting, as his students say he approached teaching with the patience and care of a father figure, often combining his teaching with subtle, but invaluable life lessons. He taught at Jepson Art Institute in Los Angeles, as well as the Holden School of Fine and Applied Arts in Charlottesville, Va., after relocating there in 1960. In 1965, he and his wife, Maxine, opened The Virginia Art Institute, which they ran until 1975, before relocating to Oregon where they lived out the remainder of their lives.

Traylor was a modest man who never self-promoted or touted his own work. Instead, he hoped that his art would end up in museums and institutions, where it could be useful for instructing. In his final years, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease, which took away his ability to hold a brush, but for some time he continued painting using only a palette knife and his fingers. Those who knew him well say that once his ability to paint was gone, Traylor found no reason to press on. He died April 28, 1996, of natural causes.

If the point in this life is to leave your mark, Traylor did so through the lives he touched and the lessons he left behind in his paintings.

Mort Traylor WWII blimp squadron art exhibit

Morton Patrick Traylor

Born: Petersburg, Virginia – April 6, 1918
Died: Days Creek, Oregon – April 28, 1996

  • Los Angeles City College
  • Chouinard Art Institute, Paris, France
  • Jepson Art Institute. Los Angeles, Los Angeles
  • Ecole des Beaux Arts, California
U. S. Navy
  • 1942-1946 Radio and Radar-man with flight squadron
  • Art Editor of Navy publication at Lakehurst, New Jersey
  • Exhibited service paintings and drawings at the Civic Art Institute, Jacksonville, Florida
  • One-Man Exhibition at Moffet Field, California
  • Exhibition of work at Service Center, Rio de Janerio, Brazil
  • Jepson Art Institute, Los Angeles, California
  • Arts Gallery and Classes, Big Bear Lake, California
  • Holden School of Fine and Applied Arts, Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Virginia Art Institute, Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Los Angeles City College, Los Angeles, California
  • Thorne Hall, Occidental College, Los Angeles, California
  • Stan Swain’s Little Gallery, Glendale. California
  • Arts Gallery, Big Bear Lake, California
Awards And Honors
  • President of Kappa Tau Sigma, Honorary Art Society, LACC Summer Scholarship to Chouinards Art School through Latham Contest Annual Scholarship to Chouinards through National competition Graduated from LACC as one of six Honor Students Continuing Scholarship to Chouinard Art Institute First Prize (Drawing) 3rd National Veterans’ Exhibition, Long Beach, Cal. First Prize (Drawing) 5th Annual, Alley Gallery, Charlottesville, Virginia First Prize (Print) Contemporary Southern Art Festival, Charlottesville, Va. Hon. Mention, Southern Art Festival. Atlanta Georgia.
Invitational Exhibitions
  • Artist and Industry, Group Show, Landau Gallery, Los Angeles, California
  • Contemporary Artists of the Southwest, Los Angeles, California
  • Drawings, Rembrandt Hall. Pomona College, Claremont, California
  • Six Artists, Alley Gallery, Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Albemarle Art Association, Alderman Library, University of Virginia
  • Albemarle Art Association, Newcomb Hall. University of Virginia
National and Group Exhibitions
  • Municipal Art Commission, City Han, Los Angeles, California
  • Solon de L’Art Libre, Modern Museum of Art, Paris, France
  • First Annual Veterans’ Exhibition, L. A. Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California
  • City Show at Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, California.
  • National Orange Show, San Bernardino, California
  • Los Angeles Art Association, Los Angeles, California
  • Print Club, Albany, New York
  • National Serigraph Society, New York City, N. Y.
  • Oakland Art Gallery, Oakland, California
  • San Francisco Museum of Art, California
  • Arizona State Fair, Phoenix Arizona
  • Modern Institute of Art, Beverly Hills, California
  • First Annual Exhibition, Santa Paula, California
  • Los Angeles Annual, County Museum, Los Angeles, California
  • Los Angeles County Fair, Pomona, California
  • Western Drawing Institute Show, Jepson’s Gallery, Los Angeles, California
  • Pennell Exhibition, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.
  • Laguna National Print Exhibition, Laguna Beach, Calif. California
  • State Fair, Sacramento, California
  • Landau Gallery Group Show, La Cieniga Blvd., Los Angeles, California
Traveling Exhibitions
  • San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, California
  • Prints by California Artists, Crest of Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
  • Contemporary Southern Art, Atlanta, Georgia (Toured 43 cities)
  • Newspaper “Paris Montparnasse” Paris, France
  • Art News Magazine, December. Newspaper “Times” Los Angeles, California
  • “Sacramento Bee, ” Sacramento, California
  • Les Archives Historiques D’Art Contemporain De La Biennale De Venise Prints of California Artists, Crest of Hollywood, California
Commercial Positions
  • Personal Assistant, Rico Lebrun, Los Angeles, California
  • National Features Syndicate, New York, N. Y.
  • McNaught Syndicate, St. Louis, Mo.
  • Whitman Publishing Co. (Dell Comics) Beverley Hills, California
  • Northrop Aviation Co. Commercial Art Dept., Hawthorne, California
  • Art Director, “TRYOUT”, Big Bear Lake, California
  • Owned and Operated Advertising Co., San Bernardino, California
  • President of Inter-Mountain Concert Society, California
  • Director of Lex Advertising Co., Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Owned and Operated Virginia Art & Advertising, Crozet, Virginia