|Magazine cover, 1904, Maynard Dixon|
Last week I blogged one day about the artist Maynard Dixon, with examples of his book illustration for several novels. Today I have gathered some of his illustrations for the western novels of another writer, Clarence E. Mulford (1883–1956), best known as the originator of the character Hopalong Cassidy.
Cassidy had already been portrayed by another illustrator, Frank Schoonover for a story, “The Fight at Buckskin,” first published in the December 1905 issue of Outing Magazine and later appearing as the opening chapter of Mulford’s Bar-20 (1907).
The bunch of Texas cowboys at the Bar-20 comprised the dramatis personae of a series of Mulford novels, following the example of B. M. Bower, who had her own set of recurring characters from a Montana ranch, the Flying U.
Schoonover, who had travelled in the West specifically to soak up cowboy local color for his painting, gives Hopalong what seems to be an authentic lived-in costume, with full mustache and a beat-up hat. See here.
Dixon is more interested in the romance of his subject matter, using visual composition, light, shadow, and movement to capture moments of drama and mystery. Some scenes take place in the half-light of dusk or a night sky. Guns are often drawn or are being fired.
A man on a horse is observed from the top of a high bluff by another rider holding a rifle. A woman walks cautiously toward a fallen cowboy, lying near a downed horse, while around them the desert is alive with blooming flowers. (Notice the horizon line near the top of the picture and the placement of the man near the bottom, as if he is about to slip off the page altogether.) Horses themselves often display the charge of energy and excitement that quickens a scene.
For the customer in a turn-of-the-century bookstore, these illustrations must have done much to appeal to curiosity, the imagination, and the pocketbook. I would surely like my westerns to come illustrated like this today.
Bar-20 Days (1911)
Buck Peters, Ranchman (1912)
The Coming of Cassidy (1913)
Shamelsss plug: For an in-depth survey of early writers of frontier fiction, read How the West Was Written (to obtain a copy, click here).
Coming up: Francis Lynde, Empire Builders (1907)