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About the Artist

Jean Jean E. Reardon (1940–2001) was a printmaker, painter, illustrator and designer who distinguished herself as a close observer of the natural world. Her carefully rendered etchings and lithographs typically depict organic forms, such as flower blossoms, leaves and seashells, bearing witness to patterns and variations as well as transitions and juxtapositions. In their color, texture and placement, Jean meditated on beauty, reflected on man’s connection with nature, and presented archetypes and metaphors for human relationships.

A member of the Copley Society of Boston and the South Shore Art Center, she exhibited her work primarily in Boston and Cincinnati and won several awards. Her prints are held in a number of collections, including those of the Copley Society, the University of Notre Dame and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Born on Christmas Eve, 1940, in Pensacola, Florida, Jean was the only child of Julia Sanford Brown and George Warren Ellenburg. Her mother came from a pioneering aviation family in Georgia. Her father was a Navy pilot who served in the Pacific theater during World War II and went on to design rockets and jet engines for General Electric and Westinghouse.

Jean spent her childhood on and around Navy bases from Florida to Hawaii, finding pleasure in drawing, reading, riding horses and practicing riflery. She particularly enjoyed paddling her wooden canoe around the wetlands near her home in Ponte Vedra, Florida, where she relished her independence and solitude and delighted in exploring the natural environment. In 1958 she enrolled at Manhattanville College, a Catholic liberal arts college for women in Purchase, New York. Jean took studio courses in painting and sculpture, but ultimately majored in English, writing her senior thesis about the imagery of fire in T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets.

Upon graduating in 1962, she married Blasdel A. Reardon, a Cincinnati native and the brother of a Manhattanville classmate. Living in Wyoming, Ohio, they raised five sons together and for many years Jean focused her creative energies on parenting. Still, she managed to knit sweaters, sew clothes and design handbags for friends and family and grow flowers and vegetables in her backyard gardens. She was also active in her church, St. James of the Valley, in her children’s schools and in the Junior League of Cincinnati. For several years she volunteered at the Cincinnati Nature Center, guiding schoolchildren on nature walks among pastures, meadows, woodlands and ponds. There she found some of the organic forms that later resurfaced in her art.

In 1980 she resumed her formal art training by enrolling at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. Holding her own among students many years her junior, she took courses in art history, color theory, drawing, painting and photography. It was printmaking, however, that truly sparked her interest and imagination. Under the tutelage of April Foster, she explored a range of techniques, from screen printing and relief printing to etching, lithography, monoprinting and collography. “Jean was a very eager student, soaking up everything that we provided at the Academy with acuity, energy and enthusiasm,” says Anne Miotke, her painting instructor there and now an adjunct professor at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. “She was always open to new approaches in composition.”

Jean soon adopted a photorealist approach to printmaking. She selected imagery from her own photographs, often close-ups of flowers or leaves, and then manipulated or combined them. Her carefully designed compositions often incorporated borders, inset details and bold contrasts of shape and value. While favoring miniature scenes, sometimes focusing on just a few leaves or blossoms, she frequently made them much larger than life, utterly transforming her subject matter and its relationship to the viewer.

Shortly after graduating from the Art Academy of Cincinnati with a B.F.A. in 1988, Jean and her husband moved to Hingham, Massachusetts, where she served as a volunteer at the Hingham Public Library, a board member at the Hingham Historical Society and a member of the town traffic committee. At St. Paul’s Church she was both a Eucharistic Minister and an advisor on the color scheme for a major interior renovation. Jean also continued her artwork in Massachusetts, showing primarily at the Copley Society in Boston and the South Shore Art Center in Cohasset, and began designing limited-edition clothes for toddlers and infants under the label Puffin ‘n’ Peas.

Working in many media, Jean consistently looked for new ways to develop and apply her talents and learn new skills. Throughout her life she pursued a wide range of interests, including painting, printmaking, decorating, cooking, gardening, and designing and making clothes. She died in October 2001 after a six-week battle with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome.