Maynard Dixon (1875-1946) was born in Fresno, California in the San Joaquin Valley. He became a noted illustrator, landscape painter, and mural painter of the early 20th Century American West focusing on the desert, American Indians, early settlers and cowboys.
Maynard Dixon's paintings show him to be influenced by modernist painters of the time as he incorporated Post-Impressionism and Cubist-Realism into his landscapes and skyscapes.
Maynard Dixon spent most of his life in the West, living between Mount Carmel, Utah, Tucson, Arizona, and the desert of California near Mecca and Indio. Maynard Dixon's close friends were artists Jimmy Swinnerton, John Hilton and Clyde Forsythe. Maynard Dixon ultimately settled in California and adopted the sun-drenched pallete of the California school.
Maynard Dixon was from a family of Virginia emigrants whose lineage was tied to English aristocracy. Living part of his youth in Colorado, Maynard Dixon made drawings of western life from the time he was seven years old. A sickly child whose activity had to be restricted, Maynard Dixon was inspired by illustrators, especially Frederic Remington, with whom he got in touch and who gave him positive critiques of his work.
In 1893, Maynard Dixon moved with his family to Alameda, California and that same year, his first illustration was published in Overland Monthly.
Maynard Dixon briefly attended the Mark Hopkins Art Institute where he learned art fundamentals, but discontent with academics, he left after three months, deciding to travel and paint from nature. Maynard Dixon's took his first full-time job in 1895, becoming an illustrator for the San Francisco Morning Call and four years later he joined the San Francisco Examiner. Maynard Dixon also wandered and sketched all over the West and Northwest; Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah and exhibited regularly with the San Francisco Art Association.
In 1905, Maynard Dixon married artist Lillian West Tobey. The following year his studio and most of his early works were destroyed by the San Francisco earthquake and fire. He and his wife then moved to Sausalito, California.
One of the first critics to laud Maynard Dixon was Charles Lummis, first city editor of the Los Angeles Times, and well known writer who crusaded for western settlement. At the encouragement of Lummis, Maynard Dixon first visited Arizona in 1900 and 1902, and seeing that state, Dixon proclaimed "he had found his country".
Maynard Dixon visited Hubbell's Trading Post and painted the Navajo Indians at Canyon de Chelly on a commission from Hubbell. Maynard Dixon returned to Arizona again and again, including in 1907 to Tucson where he did a series of western murals for the newly-built Southern Pacific Railroad Depot.
From 1907 to 1912, Maynard Dixon studied and illustrated with Century, Scribner's, and Mc Clure's magazines in New York and earned honors including membership in the Salmagundi Club and the National Academy of Design.
During this time of living in the East, Maynard Dixon received in 1909 an invitation to travel northwest from an admirer of his work, Charles Moody, and from this experience spent time in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho and in Cutbank, Montana. There Maynard Dixon worked as a cowboy for the C Cattle Company, punching cows and living with wranglers and studying Indians and western life. Maynard Dixon sketched about one-hundred fifty cowboy paintings and landscape paintings of the one-hundred square miles that they roamed.
In 1912, Maynard Dixon returned to California, and gave up commercial art for mural and easel painting. In 1915, during the Panama-Pacific Exposition, Maynard Dixon had a nervous breakdown, and two years later divorced his wife. In 1920, Maynard Dixon married Dorothea Lange, a photographer, and this marriage lasted until 1935.
In 1937, Maynard Dixon married Edith Hamlin, an artist, and they purchased property in 1939 at Mount Carmel, Utah and there they built their home and studio. However, Maynard Dixon was unable to spend much time at Mount Carmel because he needed a drier climate for his health and thus he and his wife lived primarily in Tucson, Arizona where Maynard Dixon died on November 14, 1946.