Bill Anton Under the Spell of the West
An Artistâ€™s Acknowledgment by John Coleman I believe the key to a successful work of art is the ability to convey a simple elegance using the vocabulary of paint to capture the spirit of a subject that informs its viewer of something deeper than the obvious
narrative of the painting. The power of a great painting comes when there is room left for the viewer to insert their own story and emotionally be moved.
A work of art that can invoke this type of chemistry is very rare. In Western art, using the subject of the American Cowboy specifically, the top three masters to accomplish this in my opinion are Frank Tenney Johnson, Jim Reynolds and Bill Anton.
I know my good friend Bill is too modest to include himself in this list, but in this day where many artists
are motivated to just paint pretty pictures that are decorative but superficial, it is more important than ever to celebrate a master such as Bill Anton.
I know that Bill has dedicated his career to following the traditions of Johnson and Reynolds. In his quest for a deep understanding of his subject, the souls of his contemporary cowboys are revealed.
For Bill, there is never a shortcut. He is dedicated to painting the cowboy and the pursuit of bringing his art to new levels. For these reasons, I put Bill Anton at the top of the list in this genre.
Canyon Rescue 48" x 36" Oil
Magnificent cliffs line the Snake River Canyon country. Sandy and boulder-strewn floors give way to grassy meadows among the canyon walls. Lion or bear likely took this dogey calf â€™s mother making him easy prey. I see cowboys as protectors of animals and habitat. This cowboy has ridden down to pack the little guy back to safety. 1
Bill Anton Asked to list the greatest living artists whose primary subjects are cowboys, it would not matter if the list were arranged alphabetically or by aesthetic quality, Bill Anton would be at or
near the top. His fully realized depictions of working cowboys, still out there doing the job they have always done, evoke strong emotions from viewers, as much or more than the nostalgia or
narrative that often defines Western art. Collectors and connoisseurs agree his work has risen to the top of the cowboy
genre and provides significant value in a Western art market currently more infatuated with Native American
scenes. He is among the latest in a long line of people from Chicago who have done important things in the West. Since first visiting when he was seven, Bill longed to return to the West. Transferring schools midway through his
college career, he wound up at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, he knew he had found home. He has been in northern Arizona ever since. Drawing since old enough to hold a pencil he loved art but questioned
whether that could be a career. Visiting the annual Cowboy Artists of American exhibition in the late 1970s at the Phoenix Art Museum, Bill was inspired to think about painting as a career. In 1982, he began painting full time
and visiting ranches in northern Arizona, both to gather valuable reference material, and to learn the ways of the
cowboy. Meanwhile he was absorbing art lessons gleaned through interaction with living masters like Michael Lynch and Ned Jacob and studying bygone heroes Anders Zorn, Edgar Payne and Frank Tenney Johnson. By gathering firsthand knowledge on horseback, looking intently at great art, developing his powers of observation and
learning to paint outdoors he was able to combine these experiences in paintings that combine the illusion of great detail, subtle color harmonies and masterful compositions. He seeks not to document the cowboy way but to use the cowboy to convey mood and passion, including his passion for the West itself.
Seth Hopkins - Executive Director Booth Museum, Cartersville, Georgia 2
Bill Anton U nde r t he S p el l o f t he W es t S h ow & S a l e • S c ot t s da l e , A Z M a r c h 7 - 17, 2019 B ehind
“S cenes ” with B ill A nton at L egacy G allery
Saturday, March 9th • 10:00 - 11:30 am In Bill Anton’s presentation, he will take you Behind the “Scenes” on how he develops each piece. He will discuss his process of selecting subject matter, laying the ground work and the finishing touches. Seating is first come, first served.
Artist Reception & Sale Saturday, March 9th
5:00 - 7:00 d r a w w i l l s ta rt a t
For more information on additional works, please view the entire show online at www.legacygallery.com. Sale will be conducted by draw. Those in attendance at the opening will be given preference on the sale of selected items. Please contact the gallery for more details, (480) 945-1113.
Shifting Shadows 40" x 48" Oil
Orchestration of a painting goes far beyond reference, sketches and even correct drawing; technical ability alone cannot convey the majesty of the alpine lake backcountry. You need to have been there and watched temperamental weather envelope peaks and slash ribbons of light on granite, grass and pines. This country is exposed, raw and often hazardous. Its moods are charged with dangerous beauty.
Afterglow 28" x 40" Oil
I don’t do a lot of sunsets as they tend to take over a painting making the figures too secondary. But set low on the horizon, the hot color is confined and used as a foil for the silhouettes of three guys headed home. Painting a grey in shadow with a lighter “dark’’ sky behind them was a fun challenge.
No Place Like Home 40" x 60" Oil
Montana has so many magnificent settings and this Arizona kid is thrilled when he sees “green’’. I decided a touch of color in the cottonwood would help tinge the air with the beginning of fall already well on its way in the high country. I don’t generally paint a lot of outbuildings but in this setting they lend real scale.
Finders Keepers 40" x 40" Oil
My son and I floated the Hell’s Canyon portion of the Snake River on the Oregon/Idaho border last August. That rugged country is home to just about every big game animal you can name and full of Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep. The history of the area is replete with homestead ranches that flourished there years ago which one can hardly believe given how steep and rough the escarpments are. Talk about tough horses and tougher folks! I couldn’t help imagining coming across a trophy sheep skull intact and packing it out behind the cattle. I sculpted a skull for a model and imagined how it would sit on the saddle for the trip up and out of the canyon. Thank you Tim Shinabarger for the invaluable input in putting this story together!
What Now? 28" x 20" Oil
I’ve seen this on some streams in more remote areas and always wondered how in the world you’d land a fish on horseback. Here’s the case for barbless hooks!
Near Canyonlands 16" x 20" Oil
Clouds transform the desert not only with precious water but with atmosphere. As their shadows trace across the spires and plateaus, dimension and space expand the distances already vast and give great contrast and depth to what is sometimes a monochromatic and flat view. A little moisture in the air tinges the values and hues with a subtle modeling differentiating each ridge as they recede into air. 10
Road Hazard 36" x 30" Oil
“By the time you hear him, you’re too close’’..........that is especially true on horseback and bringing a horse to a sliding downhill stop on loose footing is unnerving when you can hear but not see the rattlesnake. The Mojave Green packs extremely potent venom and is common all over the brushy canyon ranch land of Arizona. 11
Happy Hour 24" x 36" Oil
A ranch on the Beaverhead in southwest Montana was the setting for watering the ponies at the end of the day. Don't get to see much big water in the trees in Arizona and I love the compositionalÂ possibilities of deadfall timber at water's edge.
Incoming Tide 40" x 48" Oil
Painting the equine figure is very demanding and drawing is critical. I thought breaking that precision up with something behind them that allowed the unfettered slinging of paint would be an interesting problem. Respecting rules and still unleashing emotive brushwork is the story here. Anatomy has restrictions. So does the landscape (or seascape) but it is a little more pliable, roiled water especially so, and itâ€™s great fun for the artist to put two spirited subjects together and let them bounce off one another. 13
Repentance 16" x 20" Oil
A very personal statement about profound gratitude to the God of the universe who has made a way for sinful man to be reconciled to Him through Christ.
Three of a Kind 12" x 16" Oil
A tribute to my friend Cynthia Rigden whose love of the Longhorn provided her with an endless supply of magnificent models she so generously shared with her artist friends. Her cattle appeared in dozens of my paintings, but the real joy was standing out with them and “painting from the shoulder’’ as they moved around a small corral. A tremendous experience to paint them from life.... something I should’ve done much more often! 14
Rethinking It 24" x 30" Oil
I like the idea of watching for cues from the horse. If they trust you, they’ll go with you. But I have been alerted to many things I didn’t see or hear by my horse’s ears or general demeanor minutes before I discovered the reason. The pack horse here seems to be saying, “Why don’t we wait for morning?”
Awards & Accolades 2009 Express Ranches Great American Cowboy Award, Prix de West Invitational, Nat’l Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, OK. Robert Lougheed Memorial Award, Prix de West Invitational, Nat’l Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, OK. Spirit of the West Award, Masters of the American West, Autry National Center, Los Angeles, CA.
2010 Spirit of the West Award, Masters of the American West, Autry National Center, Los Angeles, CA.
2011 Express Ranches Great American Cowboy Award, Prix de West Invitational, Nat’l Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, OK. Gene Autry Memorial Award, Masters of the American West, Autry National Center, Los Angeles, CA. Spirit of the West Award, Masters of the American West, Autry National Center, Los Angeles, CA. Bohlin Buckle Award, Masters of the American West, Autry National Center, Los Angeles, CA.
2012 Museum Purchase Award, Masters of the American West, Autry National Center, Los Angeles, CA.
2015 Spirit of the West Award, Masters of the American West, Autry National Center, Los Angeles, CA.
2016 Frederic Remington Award, Prix de West Invitational, Nat’l Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, OK.
2017 Spirit of the West Award, Masters of the American West, Autry National Center, Los Angeles, CA.
2018 Express Ranches Great American Cowboy Award, Prix de West Invitational, Nat’l Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, OK.
Magazine Covers Art of the West - September/October 2012 and May/June 2018 American Artist - April 2006 Rocky Mountain Rider - November 2013 Southwest Art - February 2019 Western Art Collector - June 2008, February 2011, June 2013 and January 2019 Western Horseman - June 2002, November 2002, January 2003, April 2011, March 2012 and September 2017
Book Covers Payback at Morning Peak by Gene Hackman The Big Round Up editor Margo Metegrano Western Art of the 21st Century, Cowboys by Ashley Rooney and Seth Hopkins
“I do not see myself as a biographer of the “cowboy.” I know some artists feel they are recording a historical portrayal of ranch life today in the American West. But the focus of my work has always been mood and passion. If I’m recording anything, I’m recording how I feel about the West. I want the viewer to feel the drama of atmosphere and the mystery of a western night. I want the volume and portent of a cloud to be evident in the calligraphy of a brush stroke. The pack of the muscle below a horse’s shoulder should be energized by the gestural application of paint. You see, I love to paint and I love the American West. I was born in Chicago, but the Sierra Nevada, Sangre de Cristo, Sawatch and a hundred other ranges of our Rocky Mountains were the only “Big Shoulders” that ever interested me. Walking thunderstorms, sunstruck cedars, rimrock and artfully abstract water patterns charge the landscape here with an impossible beauty. Amidst this nobility is its caretaker: the rancher. With the natural ease of generations bred to the saddle, he is a powerful image, further ennobled by a fine horse. An artist Under the Spell of the West has the privilege of marshaling the virtues of landscape, figure and equine painting into one supremely paintable subject: the American cowboy. TO GOD BE THE GLORY.”
– Bill Anton
7178 M ain Street • S cottsdale, AZ 85251 • 480-945-1113 box
4977 • 75 north
jackson , wy
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