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Jefferson Tester

American, 1900-1972


Tennessee 1900


Roseburg 1903



Lake Oswego 1972

Occupation or Type


Northwest artist

Oregon artist


Jefferson Tester grew up in Roseburg, Oregon with his sister Amanda Tester Snyder and, as a youth, rode a freight train to San Francisco to attend art school there. In the early 1920s, after working on a Bay Area newspaper, he returned to Oregon and joined the art department of the Oregonian. He was one of the founders of the Attic Club in 1925.

Tester moved to Chicago where he studied at the Art Institute and finally went to New York to enter the commercial art field. After twenty years with some of the largest New York advertising agencies, Tester left to pursue a career in the fine arts. He traveled and had solo shows in Mexico, the West Indies, Italy and Paris and eventually settled in southern Europe. These shows received wide critical acclaim.

In the late 1940s Tester created seven covers for Time magazine as well as illustrations for The New Yorker, Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, and other national magazines. He was selected to show his work in the "Critics Choice of the Contemporary," a 1945 exhibit at the New York Armory. His painting, Umbrellas, was chosen by Devree, a New York Times art critic, as one of the ten leading canvases of the show. After a visit to New Orleans he did a series on jazz musicians. His landscapes, circus pictures, and portraits were also well received. His works reflect an individual, energetic style, solid composition, a brilliant sense of color, and rhythm – all executed in a disciplined manner. Tester considered himself an abstract impressionist but, as one critic wrote, was less concerned with objective reality or abstract form than with mood and atmosphere.

In 1963 Tester returned to Portland, married his fifth wife, a childhood sweetheart, and lived in Lake Oswego until his death.

Artist biography reproduced with permission from the authors, Oregon Painters: the First Hundred Years (1859-1959), Ginny Allen and Jody Klevit.



Related People

Sibling: Amanda Snyder (American, 1894-1980)

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