The lone trail, 1912 signed and dated 'Maynard Dixon 1912' (lower left) oil on canvas 30 x 20in overall: 35 x 25in
PROVENANCE: Private collection, Alaska
EXHIBITED: New York, National Academy of Design, Annual Exhibition, 1912. San Francisco, Vickery Atkins and Torrey, November 1-15, 1912. San Francisco, Bohemian Club, Works of Art by the Painter and Sculptor Members of the Bohemian Club, November 22-December 13, 1913.
After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed his studio and livelihood as an illustrator, Maynard Dixon migrated to New York in early 1907 in search of new opportunities. There his career skyrocketed as he rapidly rose to the top ranks of American illustrators. Whenever his frenetic schedule allowed he worked on easel painting. Aware of Robert Henri (who was a friend) and Alfred Stieglitz's efforts in promoting a more progressive movement in American art, Dixon frequented New York's galleries, studying the works of leading American and European painters. At that time, there was little distinction between illustration and fine art. In fact, the group who formed around Henri (termed the Ashcan School) included some of the top illustrators in America-John Sloan, William Glackens, Everett Shinn, and George Luks. In 1911, Dixon submitted several paintings to the prestigious National Academy of Design but was rebuffed by the selection committee. The following year, he again submitted three paintings, two featuring Navajo subjects; the third one titled The Lone Trail. By then, discouraged with the rigors of illustration work, long hours, and often unreasonable demands of book and magazine editors, he made plans to return to San Francisco. Just before he left the National Academy of Design informed him that all three of his paintings would be included in the annual 1912 exhibition. Relatively few of Dixon's paintings survive from this period, but The Lone Trail shows that his painting style had shifted toward a new reality, a path that he would follow toward modernism some years later. Concerned that his paintings relied more on literal and illustrative themes, Dixon started to explore a new visual language that touched on spiritual and poetic aspects. This seems evident in the Lone Trail, where Dixon stresses strong impressionist colors, and the rearranging and shaping of the composition into decorative patterns.
We are grateful to Donald J. Hagerty for his assistance in cataloguing this work.