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Desert Dreams: The Art and Life of Maynard Dixon, Revised Edition
     

Desert Dreams: The Art and Life of Maynard Dixon, Revised Edition

by Donald J Hagerty, John Dixon (Foreword by)
 

Ansel Adams once commented that for Maynard Dixon, "the West was uncrowded, unlittered, unorganized and free." Adams might have added that Dixon would allow no fences to surround him, imaginary or real. Ultimately Dixon argued that American painting could best work its influence on the lives and thoughts of people when painters based their work upon native material

Overview

Ansel Adams once commented that for Maynard Dixon, "the West was uncrowded, unlittered, unorganized and free." Adams might have added that Dixon would allow no fences to surround him, imaginary or real. Ultimately Dixon argued that American painting could best work its influence on the lives and thoughts of people when painters based their work upon native material and their native reaction to it. Maynard Dixon was a regionalist long before the term arrived, with confirmed belief in the vitality of America. His region was the arid landscape of southern California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Although he was geographically isolated from the mainstream, Maynard Dixon should be regarded as a pivotal connection between late-nineteenth-century and contemporary American art. His work opens the way for the sparse rock-, cloud-, and desertscapes vocabulary developed by a number of artists, including Georgia O'Keeffe, Conrad Buff, Helen Frankenthaler, and Ed Mell.

Dixon's long, productive life was, in itself, a work of art. From the beginning Dixon was different: an authentic, inconoclastic, self-created individual. Born in Fresno, California, in 1875, Dixon ended his formal art training in early 1893 after three miserable months at San Francisco's Mark Hopkins Institute of Art. Most of his American contemporaries made an obligatory pilgrimage to Paris for study; Maynard did not go. Instead he became an active outspoken, if sometimes ambivalent, participant in California's cultural life.

By the middle 1890s, in an era acknowledged as the Golden Age of Illustration, he was one of the country's foremost purveyors of nostalgic Old West in books by such authors as Jack London, John Muir, O. Henry, Mary Austin, Eugene Manlove Rhodes, and Clarence Mulford (of Hopalong Cassidy series).

After 1912, when he concluded he could no longer protray the West in "false" terms Dixon devoted increasing attention to easel and mural painting, decoration, while still pursuing a career in commercial are, particularly poster design. In 1921, supported and encouraged by his second wife, photographer Dorothea Lange, Dixon downplayed his commercial art career. He was interested in modern art techniques, but he rejected any assessment of a "one best way," and scorned experimental painting borrowed from European movements. The "narrow orthodoxy of modernism, where self-expression is used as an alibi for idiocy" angered him....

Through long and sympathetic obervation, he learned how plains rise and fall as they flow toward the horizon and how the architecture of mesa and butte marches rhythmically over the landscape into the infinite freedom of a deep blue sky. Whether Dixon painted in the field or studio, he portrayed the West in its own colors, its own light, its own forms, shaping his work with an instinctive feeling for landscape elements, demanding a standard beyond objectivity. Maynard Dixon had something to say. Where many have looked, few have seen. Among these few is Maynard Dixon.

Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times - Susan Reynolds
DESERT DREAMS: The Art and Life of Maynard Dixon by Donald J. Hagerty. (Gibbs-Smith: $65.) Born in 1875 in the southern San Joaquin Valley, Dixon grew up among the rocky arroyos, cattle ranches, cottonwoods and wide open praries he later painted. His heroes were Kit Carson, Sitting Bull, Stonewall Jackson, Geronimo and Joaquin Murietta. By the age of 16 he decided to devote himself to "illustrating the old west," and sent two sketchbooks to Frederic Remington. Remington's encouragement began Dixon's career as an illustrator. This beautiful book shows the range of Dixon's work; from tender blurred watercolors to bold, graphic magazine covers for the Overland Monthly, and murals like the one at left ("The Legend of Earth and Sun," 1929, courtesy of the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, Ariz.). But most of the book is page after startling page of Dixon's oil paintings, of Mexico and the West, of Native Americans, mesas and mountains. Susan Reynolds.
Los Angeles Times
DESERT DREAMS: The Art and Life of Maynard Dixon by Donald J. Hagerty. (Gibbs-Smith: $65.) Born in 1875 in the southern San Joaquin Valley, Dixon grew up among the rocky arroyos, cattle ranches, cottonwoods and wide open praries he later painted. His heroes were Kit Carson, Sitting Bull, Stonewall Jackson, Geronimo and Joaquin Murietta. By the age of 16 he decided to devote himself to "illustrating the old west," and sent two sketchbooks to Frederic Remington. Remington's encouragement began Dixon's career as an illustrator. This beautiful book shows the range of Dixon's work; from tender blurred watercolors to bold, graphic magazine covers for the Overland Monthly, and murals like the one at left ("The Legend of Earth and Sun," 1929, courtesy of the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, Ariz.). But most of the book is page after startling page of Dixon's oil paintings, of Mexico and the West, of Native Americans, mesas and mountains. Susan Reynolds.
— Susan Reynolds
Booknews
A biography of artist Dixon (1875-1946), iconoclastic painter of the West, who was geographically isolated from the mainstream art world yet can be seen as a pivotal connection between late 19th-century and contemporary American art. This comprehensive monograph is the product of the author's 15 years of research, and it reflects the cooperation of Dixon's family and that of numerous galleries, libraries, and collectors. Lavishly produced in an oversize format (11x12.25") and abundantly illustrated with Dixon's work. Publication coincides with a major touring exhibition of Dixon's work organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of New Mexico. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780879058265
Publisher:
Smith, Gibbs Publisher
Publication date:
05/10/1993
Edition description:
REVISED
Pages:
324
Product dimensions:
10.75(w) x 12.00(h) x 1.12(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

On an early summer morning before the traffic arrives, walk south from Broadway on San Francisco's Montgomery Street. Accompanied by drifting, trailing fog, you will soon come to the 700 block of Montgomery. This block, once a vibrant, colorful center of San Francisco's cultural life, is today overwhelmed by expensive antique shops, law firms, and aluminum, glass, and concrete high-rise office buildings.

Meet the Author

Donald J Hagerty, is a teacher and administrator at the University of California at Davis. This comprehensive monograpd on Maynard Dixon is the product of fifteen years of research. It reflects the cooperation of Dixon's family, musuems, galleries, libraries and collectors around the country.

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