Maynard Dixon

Maynard Dixon

Armand Cabrera

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
Wesley Burnside
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.
-Maynard Dixon

More on Construction in Painting

by Armand Cabrera

I want to talk more about construction for landscape painters. Figure painters know that construction is an important aspect of their training. With figure drawing and painting you learn the ideal and then adjust and apply the specific to your understanding. This type of training rarely takes place for landscape painters. Landscape painters tend to copy what they see for good or bad. While this approach can work over time, great landscape painters, like great figure painters, understand their subject on a deeper level. Their method is partly based on observation and partly on construction. It is as much from what they know about something as it is about what they see. This combination of construction and observation helps to strengthen the painting.

                                                                          Thomas Moran
 Everything has an anatomy to it; understanding this underlying structure helps you paint with a more authoritative approach. Observation alone can fool the viewer into believing they are seeing something they are not. How many times have we been fooled by some foreshortened object in the landscape thinking something looks a certain way when in reality our view of it is giving us false information? If you understand the anatomy of the thing you are looking at there is little chance for confusion since you can visualize what is going on even when its shape is distorted in your view.

William Wendt
A constructive approach can aid the design and the elegance of your depiction too. It can help with an interpretation based only in part on naturalism. Many great painters have used their understanding of the landscape and flora and fauna to create paintings truthful to nature but utterly unique to that artist. This approach requires a thorough knowledge of the subject, the ability to pick out what’s important and strip away what isn’t. For the artist, it creates a completely personal view of the world irrespective of the subject matter.

Maynard Dixon