Saturday, April 4, 2015

Art of the American West. Maynard Dixon. A-Z Challenge.


The Medicine Robe. 1915.  Maynard Dixon. (1875-1946)

Dover Publications

Maynard Dixon was born in Fresno, California.  His mother, a well-educated daughter of a Naval officer, shared her love of classical literature and encouraged her son in his writing and drawing.  He briefly attended the San Francisco School of Design before traveling to to the Southwest: New Mexico, Arizona and Utah where he worked as a wrangler. This began his life-long love of the area.  At first he worked as an illustrator of books and magazines with Western themes.  For a time he lived in New York with his first wife but returned to the Southwest where he said, "I want to create honest art of the west,"  not the romanticized versions he was being paid to create. He was sympathetic to the plight of the Indians.  His first marriage ended and he began to develop his style, mostly Western themes. A black Stetson, boots and a bolo tie was his preferred clothing style.

As he began to modify his style, moving toward a more modern approach, he met and married Dorothea Lange, the famous photographer here in the States who became known for her work depicting migrants in the Salinas Valley whose images brought her fame. Dixon painted a series of social realism canvases which showed his shared interest in the subjects that Dorothea was photographing. They traveled, spent the summers in Utah. The couple divorced in 1935.

His third wife was the San Francisco muralist, Edith Hamlin.  She also had an influence on his art and he began to paint simple but powerful compositions in which the non-essential elements were distilled or eliminated.  They lived in Utah and spent the winter months in Tucson. He died in 1946 at the age of 71.

“Painting, as I see it, must be human rather than arty,” Dixon once said. “Painting is a means to an end. It is my way of saying what I want you to comprehend. It is my testimony in regard to life, and therefore I cannot lie in paint.” 

Maynard  Dixon 1906

16 comments:

  1. I never heard of him. Now that I have, I would like to see more of his art. Thanks for stopping by.

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  2. His later work becomes more impressionistic, then abstract. I had not heard of him either, Inger, until I decided on the theme for the challenge. But I love his dashing photo!

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  3. I love his picture. Very simple but says a lot.

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    1. I like the impressionistic colors too, Jo.

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  4. Hi Nat - I've never heard of him, but have of Dorothea Lange .. and how interesting that he then married another artist. The Medicine Robe - must be a valuable garment for an Indian .. and one which will give gravitas to his ministrations to help with his healing herbs ... cheers Hilary

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    1. I think that robes and blankets were important to the Indian culture. We have many beautiful examples here at the Denver Art Museum. A blanket has many uses--ceremonial, utilitarian, practical and spiritual I think. Doing this challenge has reminded me of how much I don't know about my theme, but have much to learn.

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  5. Very interesting! I spent 27 years in SLC, so my ears always perk up a little when I hear Utah mentioned. I think it's great that he wanted to make an 'honest' depiction of the West.

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    1. So far, he is the most interesting artist to me: three wives who all had an influence on him and his art and the fact that he did not have as much training as some of the others, but what an artist!

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  6. Sounds like a good guy. In the painting, the man looks like part of the landscape, almost like a standing stone. Cleverly done.

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    1. To me the Indians were part of the landscape, not so the settlers and others who created their own landscape--I suppose it was bound to be changed, but we still have some vast areas here in the United States thanks to our National Parks System, that are relatively unspoiled.

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  7. Once again I'm loving your exploration of artists and their art. I've always loved the pictures of Native Americans since I did a project at school when I was little. I think I have seen works by Dixon - particularly his landscapes - I love his use of soft colours :)

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  8. Thank you SENCO. Dixon seems less of a traditionalist but I could not resist adding his photo, someone I think I would like to have known. He was so good as an artist, this painting particularly.

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  9. I love Maynard's quote at the end. This was a very enlightening look into his life....thanks for sharing :D

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  10. Me too. I think he had some good women in his life. He sounds like an honest man.

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  11. I just devoured all of your posts and I think I really enjoy this artist the most. Thanks for a wonderful enlightenment of western art. :-)

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