Cowboy Artists of America

Howard Terpning, Coupsticks and War Paint, oil, 30 x 28. painting, southwest art.
Howard Terpning, Coupsticks and War Paint, oil, 30 x 28.

By Lynn Pyne

Western art collectors worldwide will jet into Phoenix, AZ, for the millennium sale of the Cowboy Artists of America on October 20 at the Phoenix Art Museum. Last year the annual CAA sale generated a record-breaking $2.1 million. And with the representational art market and the economy strong, organizers expect the upcoming 35th Annual Sale and Exhibition to be the best ever.

In keeping with CAA tradition, the art will be kept under wraps until the opening night of the sale, which is a ticketed event. That evening, collectors will preview the more than 100 new oil paintings, water-soluble media, drawings, and sculpture in the exhibition. Would-be buyers will submit “intent to purchase” slips for the works of their choice. At the appointed time, one slip will be drawn for each artwork, and the lucky buyers will have 20 minutes to complete their transactions before the final horn sounds. Then another buyer’s slip will be drawn for any unclaimed works. Inevitably, collectors who submit more than one slip will be seen dashing wildly through the crowd of nearly 1,000 people to check their selections and beat the clock. Tickets for the CAA opening weekend events are $250 with the Saturday-evening awards banquet and $200 without. For information, call Ruth Kaspar at 602.252.8382 or the museum at 602.257.1880. Ever popular with museum visitors, the CAA show will remain on display through November 19.

Donald Crowley, San Carlos Bean Pickers, oil, 44 x 56. painting, southwest art.
Donald Crowley, San Carlos Bean Pickers, oil, 44 x 56.

This year’s CAA poster is The Cowboy, a special commemorative edition of an oil painting by the group’s late co-founder John W. “Johnny” Hampton, who died in December. The poster is dedicated to his memory.

Hampton reminisced last year [SWA JUN 99] about the founding of the CAA 35 years ago. At that time, the art world was bedazzled by abstract modern art. Western artists were a struggling, rare breed among them were Hampton, Joe Beeler, Charlie Dye, and George Phippen.

As Hampton described it, he ventured with Beeler and Dye on a cattle roundup and had such fun that on the drive home, “we talked about how there were a few other guys like us scattered over the West and we ought to get us ‘lone wolves’ together once in a while, maybe start a little cow-crowd club of cowboy artists.” Back home, joined by Phippen, the four little-known artists dreamed big and founded the CAA over a few beers in Bird’s Oak Creek Tavern in Sedona, AZ. Their goals were to join together to promote western representational art, set standards for authenticity and quality, and follow in the footsteps of Frederic Rem-ington and Charles M. Russell by documenting American western cultural history.

Robert Pummill, Late Out of Lordsburg, oil, 36 x 48. painting, southwest art.
Robert Pummill, Late Out of Lordsburg, oil, 36 x 48.

Through the years, the “little cow-crowd club” grew into a prestigious, lively, close-knit organization, while the popularity of western art surged. Although the CAA founding members were cowboy artists who rode horses, camped out in bedrolls, and roped cattle, their membership has expanded to include artists who view the West from a vantage point other than in the saddle. They share a common representational western focus but may depict various historical or contemporary scenes with cowboys, Native Americans, soldiers, livestock, and wildlife.

Photos courtesy the Phoenix Art Museum.

Featured in October 2000