Maynard Dixon (American, 1875-1946)
Cottonwoods of El Dorado, 1924
Charcoal and chalk on paper 14 in. x 16 in. (35.56 cm x 40.64 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, gift of the Elkus family in memory of Ben Britton Elkus2004.11.3
Artist Maynard Dixon called California home for much of his life, but he ultimately became known for depicting scenes throughout the American West. He grew up on his family’s ranch near Fresno and trained briefly at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art in San Francisco. At the outset, he was an illustrator, producing western scenes for magazines and newspapers. In 1900, he visited Arizona and New Mexico, which inspired his lifelong passion for exploring and depicting the Southwestern landscape and the Native Americans he encountered there. In the 1930s, he produced scenes of migrant workers and the Great Depression’s “forgotten man.” Dixon abandoned commercial art in 1912 to concentrate on easel paintings and murals, but never relinquished his objective approach to subject matter. He met photographer Dorothea Lange in 1920, and they married the following year. Her influence prompted Dixon to produce paintings that were more spare, stylized, and defined. Dixon’s 1919 painting of Lone Pine shows the artist moving toward greater stylization in the year before he met Lange. It depicts a scene in the small town of Lone Pine, California, in the Owens Valley. Dixon traveled in the region in the fall of 1919, staying in Lone Pine and visiting other little towns, including Big Pine and Independence, as well as Owens Lake, the Inyo Mountains, and the western edge of Death Valley. Two years later, he painted Glacial Meadow (Tuolumne Meadows), which depicts a scene in the Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite National Park. The meadows were a decided departure from the grandiose depictions of the Yosemite Valley that previous artists had portrayed, as was Dixon’s up-close and colorful treatment of the subject.