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Frank McCarthy (American, 1924-2002)


Also known as:  McCarthy, Frank C.

Birth Place: New York City (New York state, United States)

A native of New York City, Frank McCarthy's fascination with the American West began with an assignment to produce a western image for a book cover. At the time, McCarthy was a successful illustrator whose works had appeared in such leading publications as Collier's, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Reader's Digest, Outdoor Life, and American Magazine. In addition he was frequently asked to provide illustrations for the leading book publishers of the day and for most of the major movie studios. He had attained status as one of the leading American illustrators at a relatively early age. His first western illustration assignment came in 1950 when he was only 26. He studied at the Art Students League as well as the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and had trained under the tutelage of Reginald Marsh. While his career as an illustrator led him to research a wide variety of historic periods and subjects, he often returned to western subjects, and by 1968, he was ready to make the transition from painting for magazines, books, and the movie studios, to a full time pursuit of painting western canvases for gallery representation.

He quickly established his reputation as one of the top western painters in the country and was eventually inducted into the Cowboy Artists of America. He moved to Sedona, Arizona, in 1974 and remained there until his death in 2002. Throughout his career as a western artist, McCarthy depicted several historical eras and subjects, but his greatest affinity perhaps was for the native cultures of the American West. Although his easel paintings need not be tied to a specific incident in western American history, he frequently used his research into that subject as the basis for his art. The scenes that he painted sprang from his imagination, but they were grounded in his reading of history and often are based on well documented events.

His fidelity to historical accuracy is evident in the many authentic details of dress and other items. Beyond this authenticity, however, is McCarthy's ability to impart to the viewer a sense of the environment and the determination of his subjects. Stolen Ponies and Kiowas on the Southern Plains show his faithfulness in portraying Native American life in authentic detail that relate to the specific people he paints. Earlier artists tended to portray Native Tribal cultures as monolithic and homogenous, when they were in fact distinctly separate. While these two paintings are similar in terms of content, the details of clothing, environment, and the items carried by the Indians clearly indicate that McCarthy had thoroughly researched his subjects. It is evident that McCarthy had studied the histories and customs of both Northern Plains tribes and those of the Southern Plains.

McCarthy's works are found in many private and public collections and his work has been featured in museums such as the Gilcrease in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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