It’s been more than three decades since painter Robert Lougheed was in the prime of his career back in the 1970s. To say that the art world in the western U.S. has seen some changes since then would be a laughable understatement. Today the western art world is home to countless artists, galleries, shows, museums, schools, and organizations, and this infrastructure supports the same stylistic diversity found in art markets across the country. In Santa Fe and Scottsdale and Denver and Los Angeles, you’ll find artists creating everything from traditional realism to avant-garde installations, and everything in between.
But in the 1970s, when Lougheed—who’s the subject of a new book and an article on page 62—was hitting his stride as a western painter, the West was a vastly different place. The mythology of the West as a wild land of horses and cowboys was still very much alive; the Cowboy Artists of America and the National Cowboy Hall of Fame (as it was known then) were both relatively new; and galleries featuring “western” art in its most literal sense were opening on a regular basis. Lougheed, unquestionably, was a leader of this new movement. In the 13 years from 1969 to 1981, he won more than 20 awards at the annual exhibitions of the Cowboy Artists of America and the National Academy of Western Art (now known as the Prix de West). This recognition, and his unfailing dedication to his art above all else, earned him the distinction “the painters’ painter.” Fittingly, the artists’ choice award for the best body of work at the Prix de West Invitational is known to this day as the Robert Lougheed Memorial Award.
In addition to all of these public accolades, Lougheed deserves significant credit for his role as a mentor to several of today’s top artists, including John Moyers, Terri Kelly Moyers, and Wayne Wolfe. Lougheed came to know the younger painters through monthlong visits to the Okanagan Wild Game Farm in British Columbia in the late 1970s, where groups of plein-air painters spent their days painting and their evenings exchanging ideas and constructive criticism. Following in Lougheed’s footsteps, the next generation has gone on to achieve its own successes: Wayne Wolfe won the Prix de West in 1982. Terri Kelly Moyers won the Buyers’ Choice Award in 1996 and the Frederic Remington Award in 1997 (both at the Prix de West show). John Moyers won his mentor’s namesake award in 2003 as well as numerous awards at the CAA show, including five Best of Show honors. Lougheed’s legacy for the artists of the West is a strong one indeed. -March 2010