Organizations* : AOA, CAA, NAWA, SI
Known as a traditional painter of Western history, Tom Lovell was born in New York City. “I enjoy recreating the past, “ he once said. “As a boy, books of adventure in far off times and places were real. At seventeen, I shipped as a deckhand on the Leviathan and various other jobs followed. Enrollment in the College of Fine Arts at Syracuse University was the next step. At this time the newsstands were filled with ‘pulp’ magazines and I produced a cover in oils and eight or ten dry brush illustrations a month during my senior year. The message on the covers had to outscream a hundred others. After graduation I continued to free lance for the pulps for six years before tackling the ‘slicks.’ In 1944, I enlisted in the Marine Corps and was assigned to an easel. Illustration continued to flourish after the war.”
Lovell attended high school in Nutley, New Jersey. As valedictorian of his class, he spoke on the “Ill Treatment of the American Indian by the U.S. Government,” a harbinger of his depictions of the west. In 1931, he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Syracuse University in New York.
For thirty-nine years, Lovell was a freelance illustrator for many well-known magazines, including Collier’s, McCall’s, and National Geographic. In 1969, a commission for fourteen large paintings of Southwestern history caused Lovell to shift his focus to the American West, and in 1975, he and his wife moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. That same year, Lovell was elected to the Cowboy Artists of America.
His work focused on the history of the West, particularly early expeditions and the relations between Native Americans and early settlers. Although drawn from history, Lovell’s paintings are fresh and vital, never tired or hackneyed. He paid great attention to detail and because of this, seldom completed more than a dozen major oil paintings a year. The quality of his contribution to contemporary western art is remarkable.
In 1974, he won the National Academy of Western Art’s Prix de West, was elected to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame, and won the Franklin Mint gold medal for prints. Lovell has also been featured in Artists of the Rockies and Persimmon Hill.
“I like people,” Lovell said. “If I can communicate some of this feeling in each painting, common ground may be established with the casual spectator. I believe the artist has a certain obligation to interest and inform without being encyclopedic about detail.”