About Maynard Dixon Paintings

By Robin Thede

  • Overview

    About Maynard Dixon Paintings
    About Maynard Dixon Paintings
    Largely self-taught, Maynard Dixon (1875-1946) was an American muralist, illustrator and landscape painter best known for his colorful depictions of desert scenes, Native Americans, early American pioneer settlers and cowboys.
  • Origins

    On January 24, 1875, Lafayette Maynard Dixon was born Henry St. John Dixon on a ranch just outside of Fresno, California. At his christening eight months later, his parents changed his name to that of his maternal grandfather. He suffered from asthma as a child, and focused on learning to draw because it didn't require too much physical exertion.
  • The Formative Years

    At the age of 16, Dixon's work was marked by heavy impasto and the bold use of colors. He moved with his family to Alameda, California, near San Francisco. Here, he attended the California School of Design for three months and then worked full time as an illustrator for "The Morning Call" newspaper. Expanding upon his illustrations, Dixon's work in his 20s is marked by both post-Impressionism and Cubism. He began traveling throughout the western states and found inspiration for many of his landscape murals and desert paintings. His commissions grew, even after the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco destroyed his studio completely.

  • Significant Events

    Trips to Montana in 1909 and 1917 were extremely influential in Dixon's adult works. Here, he lived with local Native Americans and painted his version of the northern Plains lifestyle. These works are mostly small landscape pieces, as opposed to the larger murals he painted later on in his career. During his time in Tucson in the 1920's, Dixon truly cemented his signature pastel landscapes. Famous paintings such as "Saguaro" (1925) exemplify his unique use of desert hues and love for large-scale landscape art. From 1931 to 1932, Dixon spent five months in New Mexico, studying desert landscapes and creating some of his most notable paintings and drawings. In total, he produced more than 40 canvases in varying sizes. These paintings tell a patchwork tale of the relationship between the people of the area and the land and are some of his most famous works.
  • Alternate Painting Style

    Just after World War I, Dixon branched out into a new (although short-lived) style of painting in which he satirized pop art by creating darker, more emotional pieces. He signed these pieces as "Nvorczk" and produced rare works such as "Fiery Mountain" and "War in Russia."
    Maynard Dixon
  • The Final Years

    Maynard Dixon's last few years are marked by a sparing use of paint and a more restrained color scheme. His use of light and shadow, however, always remained strong, as shown in "Home Tucson," which was painted the year he died.
  • Notable Facts

    Brigham Young University has the largest museum collection of Maynard Dixon paintings, dating primarily between 1933 and 1945, when Dixon spent much time creating work in Utah. Dixon's marriage to noted photographer Dorothea Lange from 1920 to 1935 inspired him to give his work a more modernist tone. In these years, his art found power and drama not yet seen in his earlier pieces.
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