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James Deneen (American)


Birth Place: Minneapolis, MN, United States


James Deneen (October 30, 1930 - May 17, 2012) was an American illustrator specializing in World War I biplanes, trains, and Wild West portraits. Over the course of his career, his work appeared in the Smithsonian, on several movie posters, and countless baseball memorabilia. 

James “J.B.” Deneen was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1930. His interests as a boy were directly correlated with his later work as an artist and illustrator. From an early age, he marveled at old airplanes, towering baseball players, and the art of N.C. Wyeth. Deneen had little formal training, but his natural ability to capture motion and conflict gave even his early work a magnetic quality that appeared effortless, though his process was anything but. 

“When I began,” Deneen said, “I was very concerned that every detail was correct. I would do exhaustive studies for any subject that I attempted; drawings from every angle." This exacting process paid off when, in 1967, Deneen’s depiction of a Fairchild Hiller STOL aircraft was unveiled at the Smithsonian.

He followed this by designing the cover of the 1968 Minnesota Twins yearbook, a now iconic image that featured Twins’ star Harmon Killebrew and others in action on the field. The link between baseball and aerial combat was obvious, Deneen’s use of motion and sweeping sense of action and adventure made waves in the baseball community. He would continue to illustrate images for the Twins in the decades to come.

What Kind of Illustrations Did James DeNeen Make?

As Deneen’s business continued to grow, he formed Echelon Printing in 1969 to protect and preserve art, as well as promoting Deneen’s own in-demand services. He began illustrating for film, including classic depictions of Clint Eastwood and the Tom Selleck movie, “High Road to China.” Prints of these illustrations proved extremely popular and helped to grow Deneen’s name as the foremost artist for fighter planes of both world wars. 

Deneen continued to sell his art throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s. He was inducted into the New York Society of Illustrators during this time, a prestigious award that legitimized Deneen’s work in the eyes of the art community. In 2005 he was honored as Aviation Artist of the Year by the Minnesota Aviation Hall of fame for being an ambassador for the history of aviation. 

Is James Deneen Still Alive?

Deneen died on May 17, 2012. While illness had slowed his artistic output in his later years, he still left behind an incredible body of work that continues to inspire children and adults. Although almost exclusively a commercial artist, he brought a meticulous eye and attention to detail that rivals any “high art” contemporary, above all else, he never lost a sense of adventure, perspective, and action that makes a Deneen illustration instantly recognizable.

How Much are James Deneen Illustrations Worth?

James Deneen's artwork has realized prices from $209 USD to $2,000 USD. Since 2015 the record price for this artist at auction is $2,000 USD for Early Flight to Santa Barbara, sold at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, TX 2019.

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