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As It Was: Oregon Artist Ranges from Sign Painting to Fine Art

The Oregon artist Emil Knutson was educated at St. Mary’s School in Medford, Ore., but his father taught him to paint signs and on canvas.

Following military service, Emil took a correspondence course in painting.  Soon he was doing commercial assignments during the day and painting fine art at night.

His work includes landscapes, portraits and murals.  Some examples are an 82-foot-wide mural of Diamond Lake and Mount Thielsen for the Roller Odyssey, portraits like one of Roger Johnston of the Little Butte Mountain Men, and framed Chinese scenes, including a 16-foot painting of peacocks and pheasants that graces a wall of the Far East Restaurant.

In the early 1990s Knutson painted a railroad mural in the Jacksonville Museum for the Southern Oregon Historical Society.  Museum associate Carolyn Sharrock said it was so realistic she heard the train whistle each time she looked at it.

Knutson’s work extends far beyond Medford.  He has done portraits of Ronald Reagan, golfer Tiger Woods, and the industrial founders of Jeld-Wen.

Though slowed by illness, he still paints.


Sources: Asnicar, Tammy. "A Brush with Genius." Mail Tribune, Apr. 2017 [Medford Oregon] .

Twitchell, Cleve. "Artist for all seasons." Mail Tribune, 12 Dec. 1991 [Medford Oregon].

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.