Asheville’s most well-known painter has died. Jonas Gerard was an icon of the River Arts District, where he had a thriving gallery and studio since moving to Asheville from Florida in 2006. Gerard died Friday morning at age 79.
His large, abstract paintings were a top draw for tourists, and Gerard continued hosting live painting-performance sessions for visitors well into his late 70s, until just a few months before his health declined and he went into hospice care. Gerard’s paintings were exhibited at the Asheville Airport and sought by collectors around the world. He added a second gallery in the River Arts District in 2013.
Gerard wasn’t without controversy. Several women who worked for him over his years in Asheville had separately accused him of inappropriate and unwanted sexual advances. One such accusation led to a settled lawsuit and two others resulted in small awards through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Sympathizers of these women occasionally protested outside his galleries and, once, vandalized his artwork at the airport.
Gerard was married three times and is survived by a daughter, Mira Gerard, also a working artist. His galleries are closed Friday to honor his passing, but will continue exhibiting and selling his work.