Lafayette Maynard Dixon Was born in 1875 in Fresno CA. He began drawing at age seven and was encouraged by his mother and grandfather to develop his talent. Growing up on his grandfathers ranch Maynard had plenty of subject matter for his art. At sixteen his father died and the family soon moved to Alameda CA where Maynard enrolled in the San Francisco School of Design across the bay to study under Arthur Mathews. His time at the school was short though. Maynard who was used to working from life felt stifled in the classroom working from castes and after a few months he quit school.
He became acquainted with Raymond Yelland who helped Dixon with oils and watercolors. Maynard acknowledged Yelland as the only worthwhile professional help he received as an artist.
In 1893 Maynard made many sketching trips in California and moved to San Francisco to pursue a career in Illustration. He began working for the Overland Monthly and the Morning Call. It was in the pages of these magazines where Maynard sharpened his picture making skills. In 1899 He accepted the position of Art Director for William Randolph Hearst’s San Francisco Examiner. In 1900 Maynard began to feel the strain of constant deadlines and began taking trips to the rest of the western states around California. His travels throughout the Southwest solidified his connection to the Native American culture that had intrigued him his whole life. It was during this time he adopted the symbol of the thunderbird replacing his signature with this icon.
In 1905 he married Lillian West they had one child. Displaced by the great quake and fire of 1906 in San Francisco Maynard lost almost everything he owned. He headed to New York with his family to work for Harpers and other National magazines but the big city was not for him by 1912 he was back in San Francisco.
Maynard gave up illustration to pursue easel painting and mural work. He divorced his first wife in 1920 and Married Dorothea Lange a successful photographer, they had two children.
When the depression hit in 1929 Maynard worked on murals for the WPA in 1935 he divorced again and married artist Edith Hamlin in 1937.
Maynard had always suffered from asthma and rheumatism and as his health deteriorated he moved to Tucson to help his illness. He and his new wife split their time between Tucson Mount Carmel Utah. Maynard Dixon died in Tucson in 1946 at the age of 71.
Desert Dreams: The Art and Life of Maynard DixonDonald J. Hagerty
Peregrine Smith Books
Maynard Dixon Artist of the West
Brigham Young University Press
Quote My object has always been to get as close to the real thing as possible- people animals and country. The melodramatic Wild West idea is not for me the big possibility. The more lasting qualities are in the quiet and more broadly human aspects of Western life.