Organizations* : CAA, NAWA
James Reynolds was born in Taft, California and is now one of Arizona’s most prominent 20th Century artists, known as a painter of contemporary cowboys at work. “Critics don’t bother me a bit,” he declares. “I’m just doing my own thing, with no phony nonsense. I just like to paint cowboys. I’m a realist in every sense of the word, but in painting I lean toward impressionism. As far as my goals are concerned, I just want to be a good painter. And naturally, I want to leave something behind.”
As a young boy, Reynolds spent his summers in a small town in the Sierra Nevadas in California, near Donner Pass. “The whole town was just so full of the mood of the Old West,” he recalls, a mood which attracted his artistic interest. After seeing a Frank Tenney Johnson painting reproduced in a calendar, and which “just turned me on,” Reynolds’ artistic path was set.
After Navy service in World War II, he studied at the Kahn Institute of Art in Los Angeles and the School of Allied Arts in Glendale, both in California. Reynolds then became a free-lance commercial artist and worked for Lockheed Aircraft as an illustrator. After that, he sketched and painted for fifteen years in Hollywood for major movie studios. When he resigned his high paying job to paint full time, his supervisor was concerned, but Reynolds made more money his first year of painting than he had in Hollywood.
In 1967, having received much attention for his work, Reynolds moved to Arizona and settled in Sedona, becoming good friends with Joe Beeler and Charlie Dye, two of the founding members of the Cowboy Artists of America. The next year, he joined the organization, becoming an emeritus member in 1977 because he tired of people buying art as an investment rather than for the love of it.
He then moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, and worked in the solitude of his studio, achieving what many regarded as his best work. In 1992, Reynolds became the first artist to win the three highest honors in the National Academy of Western Artists, and the following year, the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma held a retrospective of his work. In 1996, feeling a need to rejoin his friends, Reynolds again affiliated with the Cowboy Artists of America, winning their “public choice” medal twice. In July 2005, he concluded his membership with the organization.
The Franklin Mint has published his prints and he has been featured as well in magazines such as Southwest Art and Artists of the Rockies.