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George Phippen Retrospective

September 11 - December 30, 2004


(above: Top Horse - original painting in color)


As the final exhibit in its 20th anniversary season, the Phippen Museum is presenting a George Phippen Retrospective from September 11 through December 30, 2004. The exhibit -- containing paintings, sculptures, drawings, memorabilia and the reconstruction of part of his log cabin studio -- comes from the Phippen Family and other private collections around the country. This is the first time the public will have an opportunity to view such a comprehensive collection of Phippen's work. (right: photo of George Phippen at his easel)

"The chronological display of Dad's work is enlightening because it shows how he started and where he finished," said Darrell Phippen. "It's been encouraging to me because it shows me that you don't have to be perfect when you start something. Dad had the talent and the passion, and he developed his technique and style over the years."

The Museum estimates that Phippen did some 3,000 works in his brief career. Succumbing to cancer in 1966, he made art for only 20 years. "He died when I was 11, so I really didn't get to know him," Darrell Phippen said. "I've gotten to know him through his paintings. He was a unique man. After World War II, few artists had the vision and determination to pursue a career in cowboy art; and the family suffered financially in the early years for his passion. But he and my mom had made that commitment early on, and they made it work."

Phippen had a passion for the American Western Cowboy, [1] and he particularly loved the action of the cowboy and his animals. "A lot of Western artists today don't challenge themselves to portray men and animals in action, but Dad had a real feel for what a horse could do and what it looked like. He had a great understanding of anatomy that improved as you follow his career."

Phippen's paintings and sculptures typically convey a keen sense of humor and an insight into the everyday life of working cowboys. He excelled at the looser, more painterly style of Western art in the 50s and 60s, and is known for his mastery of campfires, burning cigarettes and night skies. Tony Altermann, of Altermann Gallery in Santa Fe, has handled most of the estate sales containing George Phippen's work over the past 50 years. He said, "The illusion of George Phippen is what he might have accomplished. Phippen was already an accomplished painter and sculptor when he died at 50. Imagine what the art world would have known had he lived out his life."

Phippen created 15 covers for Western Horseman Magazine in the 50s and 60s and 60 paintings for Brown & Bigelow. He signed a contract with Brown & Bigelow to do one painting a month for $1,000 a painting. They used many, but not all, of those paintings on their famous calendars. Both Western Horseman Magazine and Brown & Bigelow are lending work for this retrospective. Work is also coming from Ed Honnen's collection at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, the Pueblo Sangre de Cristo Fine Arts Center and numerous private collections. This is the first time so much of Phippen's previously unseen works will be on display to the public since his death. (right: Hiding Out) [2]

Darrell Phippen is understandably proud of his father. "He was a humble man with a sense of humor. People liked him. Not just for his talent, but as a man. That's how you get to the place where ranchers and cowboys wanted to recognize him with a museum. He embodied the Western cowboy spirit. And this is the family's opportunity to present George Phippen to a new generation."

George Phippen, Joe Beeler, John Hampton & Charlie Dye founded the Cowboy Artists of America [3] in 1965 to encourage the creation and collection of western art in the tradition of Charles Russell and Fredric Remington. Unfortunately, Phippen died before the new group was able to hold its first exhibition in 1966 at the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City [4]. However, his influence on today's Western American Realism painters and sculptors lives on, as does the spark he rekindled for the lost wax process of bronze casting that stems from the tiny renaissance he began in Prescott in the 1950s. (right: Boss Has a Young'un)

"Conversations About George" will take place on several Saturdays throughout the exhibit, featuring artists, collectors, friends and family of George Phippen.

George and Louise Phippen were not wealthy people. He lived for his art and for the help he could give to new artists. They traded his art to pay the bills and take care of their family. As a result, most of George Phippen's work is now in private collections throughout the United States. The Phippen family and the Phippen Museum would like to catalog the location of all of Phippen's work. Anyone who owns a Phippen work is encouraged to call the Museum at 928.778.1385 or email phippen@phippenartmuseum.org



1. RLM articles on Western Genre Art:

2. According to Gay Groomes of Schepman & Associates, "'Hiding Out' was an oil painting Phippen did for Brown and Bigelow. This is actually the 2nd painting he did. In the first, the calf's head was bent down and the folks at Brown & Bigelow thought he looked sick or hurt and wouldn't catch up with the herd. So they had George repaint it with a humorous slant. The calf is "playing" and will catch up with the herd."

3. see "THE ART OF NOSTALGIA AND LEGACY" in The West's Best at Desert Caballeros Western Museum (5/20/02) also see

4. see National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum


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