James Havard, born in 1937, grew up on a forty-acre farm near Galveston, Texas that raised cattle, pigs, and chicken. In the mid 50’s, he attended Sam Houston State College, on a full ride basketball scholarship, to earn a degree in agriculture, but midway, he changed his major to art. Several years later, he earned his fine arts degree from Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and went on to win several awards, such as the William Emlen Cresson Memorial Award and the J. Henry Schiedt Memorial Award.
Havard spent the next decades showcasing his work in various exhibitions and traveling in Europe and Scandinavia, occasionally taking residence on a farm to paint and work in the field. It was at that time, in the 1970’s, that Havard began creating his first works in Abstract Illusionist Style, a movement that Havard and a few others pioneered. Settling in New York, he continued to foster this movement. In the 1980’s, though, his work evolved into a type of singular figuration. According to the art critic Tony Cavanaugh, “Harvard’s figures are raw and elemental. In their utter nakedness of guile and anatomical economy they resemble the works of very young children, albeit an innate sophistication that can only belong to a mature artist in complete control of his powers.”