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    Frank Tenney Johnson (American, 1874-1939)
    Dick Dickson (California Ranchero), 1938
    Oil on canvas
    22 x 28 inches (55.9 x 71.1 cm)
    Signed and dated lower right: F. Tenny Johnson N.A. / 1938
    Signed, dated, and titled on the stretcher: Dick Dickson F. Tenney Johnson N.A. 1938

    Private collection, Beverly Hills, California;
    By descent to the present owner.

    Internationally celebrated for his depictions of cowboys and his moonlight scenes on the open range, Frank Tenney Johnson is considered one of the most important Western painters of the 20th century. Born on an Iowa farm on the old Overland Trail, Johnson grew up with dreams of the distant West. From an early age, he began apprenticing to prominent artists, both honing his skills as a draftsman and advancing his interest in portraying Western subjects and themes.

    In 1904, Johnson headed West on an illustration assignment from Field and Stream magazine. This would prove to be a life-changing trip, cementing his signature style and subject matter for the remainder of his life. Johnson developed a special interest in depicting outdoor light, in particular, nocturnal scenes, achieving a heightened twilight luminosity by studying the skies in Maxfield Parrish's paintings. Johnson achieved such continuous success with his illustration work that he began to make many trips out West, and in 1920 settled in Alhambra, California. There he shared a studio with Clyde Forsythe, and the two co-founded the Biltmore Art Gallery in Los Angeles. By now, the artist had fully mastered his "Johnson moonlight" technique, and his scenes depicting cowboys under the stars had become nationally famous. His easel paintings began out-grossing his illustrations u , /u and eventually became his prime focus.

    The present work is a classic example of the Johnson nocturne, featuring his most enduring subject matter: the solitary mounted cowboy, high in the saddle, alone in the Western landscape. When Johnson executed this work in 1938, he and Dick Dickson, the subject of the scene, were kindred spirits. Both men hailed from Iowa and were lured to California by the call of the West. Both held a nostalgic vision of the old frontier, which was conveyed in their respective careers. During the 1930s, Dick Dickson was a Hollywood producer and movie theater executive, producing many Westerns that included more than twenty Hopalong Cassidy movies. When Johnson painted his portrait, Dickson was no stranger to the role of the lone cowboy. Dickson was a rancher and a skilled equestrian, riding professionally in parades and shows throughout southern California, and two years prior had even played the part of Waggoner in the 1936 Hopalong Cassidy film, Trail Dust.
    In this work, Dickson appears fittingly as the protagonist of an old Western film, mounted on horseback and set against Johnson's characteristic nocturnal landscape backdrop. His presence in the scene is as a character on a movie set, illuminated with theatrical light that casts a cool shadow on the open plain. Completed only a year before the artist would die tragically and prematurely from illness, this masterwork exemplifies not only Johnson's technical skill, but also his affinity and admiration for Dickson's ranchero lifestyle, a twentieth-century continuation of the values and way of life of the Old West.

    Condition Report*: Minor craquelure with flaking and minor loss to the upper left corner; a few other scattered specks of loss throughout the upper half of the work; small areas of inpaint, most notably along the lower edge and to the horse's reins.
    Framed Dimensions 27 X 33 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2019
    1st Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,879

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