Friday, April 30, 2010


Morning on the San Joaquin Plains, 1921, oil on canvas board

I finally made it over to the Grace Hudson Museum for their show, "Space, Silence, Spirit: Maynard Dixon's West." It is up through June 20th.

The Hudson website notes that it is a coup for a small town museum to display work by an artist of Dixon's prominence. This is true, but it should be noted that the exhibit, one man's collection, is very heavy on drawings and light on paintings, and that most of the drawings are what I'd consider sketches. Having said this, I hasten to add that it is a very well conceived and coherently presented show, arranged chronologically and with all phases of his creative life well represented.

The painting I spent the most time with is a very small oil, perhaps 5 or 6 inches high x 10 inches wide, titled "Trail Herd" and dating to early in his long career, 1915. Unfortunately I can't find an image of it online. It depicts a group of cattle and in the foreground two mounted cowboys. The dynamic movement of the two horses and riders is so very wonderfully captured and the composition dances across the small canvas.

The other single thing I found most interesting was a copy of a letter to the editor Dixon sent to the San Francisco Chronicle in 1939. He had been married to Dorothea Lange (by 1939, divorced) and during the time she was taking the photos for which she is famous, he was producing drawings and paintings on similar themes. The letter is a passionate defense of the humanity and rights of California's economic migrants.

This is a show worth seeing - but for folks reading this from over 2 hours away, frankly it may not be worth a trip up unless you have other things you want to see or do here (and being it's wildflower season, the weather is great, there are lots of great day trips around here and its a very scenic ride either to the coast or the Napa Valley, you could make a great weekend out of it!).


namastenancy said...
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bluemonk said...

Thanks, Janet, for this review. I really want to see the show, but it's good you've explained that it's mostly drawings so we know what to expect if we do make it up that way!