O. Gail Poole
“Poole,” as he was affectionately known, was a native Oklahoman and an American master. Though heavily rooted in Southwestern Art, he was fond of saying "I don't want to be known as a Western Artist...Artist will do."
With a career spanning half a century, Poole influenced generations of Oklahoma's artists with his draftsmanship, innovation, brazen shifts in style...and his humorous, outspoken, purely Oklahoman nature.
Untamed and unpredictable by his own description, Poole successfully managed to transcend easy and traditional classification. He was an artist's artist, quietly and steadily creating a diverse and inspired body of work – a master’s portfolio eagerly collected and highly respected by his peers across the country.
Poole was born in Marlow, Oklahoma, to Woodrow "Woodie" Poole, a self-taught painter of barn advertisements, and Hazel Patterson, a schoolteacher. Woodie left the family in 1939, and Hazel, without benefit of a sitter, moved the family to the home of Poole's maternal grandfather in Bradley, Oklahoma. Poole's interest in art took shape at an early age - after he "won" a contest on a matchbook to Draw Lucky, Hazel paid for the ensuing correspondence courses in art. Hazel spent years contributing to Poole's college fund by selling eggs on weekends, determined that her child would reap the benefit of higher education.
After graduating from Bradley High School, Poole enrolled in the University of Oklahoma and the ROTC, where he where he achieved the rank of Captain and was the Commanding Officer of Company H, 7th Regiment of the National Society of Pershing Rifles. Poole was a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and graduated in 1957 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in advertising art.
In his early career, Poole worked as an award-winning advertising artist and illustrator. He created and chaired the Oklahoma Art Directors Guild, while nurturing the groundbreaking advertising firm Poole-Hobbes, Inc., which grew to be the most influential studio of its kind in the state.
In 1974, Poole participated in an invitational exhibition, "Western Artists of Oklahoma," in Manz, Germany. The show was a catalyst for Poole, and spurred his abandonment of the advertising industry for pursuit of the life of an artist. However, Poole soon moved away from his wheelhouse of Western art and focused instead upon traditional techniques of American and European masters.
“At first, I tried to be marketable - the oil boom was getting into full swing at the time and all the 'oilies' were into western art, so I painted western art and sold quite well. All of a sudden I realized I was doing commercial art again...I pulled in my horns and my work.”
Poole's dedication made its mark, and he quickly became known as an influential painter. He actively sought to further the arts in Oklahoma, becoming a founding member of the Professional Artists Association and joining the Pastel Society of America, the Oklahoma Society of Impressionists and the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition. In addition to showing at the Oklahoma State Capitol, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, the Gilcrease Museum of Art, the Philbrook Museum of Art, the Leslie Powell Museum, Spiva Museum and the National Museum of Western Heritage, Poole participated in countless solo and group exhibits throughout the Southwest.
Poole credited his artistic diligence to his mentor and great friend, the late artist R.V. "Dick" Goetz, and continued his education with many of the nation's finest instructors, including Yang Cho, Mark Daly, Bernie Fuchs, Gregg Kreutz, David Leffel, Sherrie McGraw, Frank Mason and Fritz Scholder. Poole was proud of his influences and sought to honor them with his own unique voice.
While he was admired by artists and enjoyed the patronage of influential collectors, Poole rather famously eschewed the marketing and promotion of his work, preferring instead to spend his time at the easel, on the road, or championing progressive change in Oklahoma.
In 2013, Poole went on to greener pastures, leaving the entirety of his remaining work to his daughter, Nicole Poole. The O. Gail Poole Collection is being readied for a catalogue raisonné and prepared for continuous public display.