Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Illustrators of early frontier fiction: Maynard Dixon

Maynard Dixon
Maynard Dixon (1875-1946) was a California-born illustrator and painter, whose work often captured the spirit and human drama of the American West. As an artist, he is remembered for his landscape paintings, which capture the scale and grandeur of desert and sky. As a book illustrator, he brought a surge of romanticism to the drama, mystery, and excitement to be found in frontier fiction of the time.

Here are his illustrations from nine novels by various authors. Notice in particular the use of light and shadow to strike a mood and to heighten the intensity of interaction between characters. 

Some are moments frozen, as if movement were stopped by the shutter of a camera--a soldier hurriedly dismounting a horse; a figure striding by in the foreground as two men on horseback exchange words. Some use body posture to portray emotions--a woman tentatively touching the shoulder of a cowboy leaning against the horse she is riding. 

 Will Lillibridge, Ben Blair (1905)

 Kate and Virgil Boyles, The Homesteaders (1909)

Florence Finch Kelly, The Delafield Affair (1909) 

Kate and Virgil Boyles, The Spirit Trail (1910)

Dane Coolidge, Hidden Water (1910)

Dane Coolidge, The Texican (1911)

Cyrus Townsend Brady, The West Wind (1912)

Peter B. Kyne, The Three Godfathers (1913)

Herman Whitaker, Over the Border (1917)

All of the above books are currently available online at google books and Internet Archive.

BITS review of Dane Coolidge, Hidden Water (1910), part 1, part 2

Photo credit:
Maynard Dixon, Wikimedia Commons

Coming up: TBD


  1. Lovely. Particularly nice to see women in these images.

  2. He does a great job with the shadows and the wind. I wonder how long he had to do each one.

  3. Ron, looking at these lovely illustrations I could imagine the stories behind the scenes; of course, my own creation.

  4. Very nice, I have little or no knowledge of illustrators. Thanks for another great lesson.

  5. Oh, what talent! The scenes really pop.