Organizations* : CAA
Charlie Dye was born in Canon City, Colorado. He rode for ranches in Colorado, Arizona, and California until the age of twenty-one. From childhood, he was a sketcher, but it wasn’t until a horse fell on him that he considered art as a career. In the hospital recovering from his injuries, he saw reproductions of Russell’s paintings in a magazine, and that exposure decided his calling of portraying the lives of cattlemen. He began his art career painting at night at the Art Institute of Chicago and the American Academy.
In 1936 he moved to New York City to become a magazine illustrator, studying at night under the tutelage of Harvey Dunn. He also worked with Felix Schmidt in a commercial studio. During this time he painted covers and illustrations for many major American publications of the day, such as The Saturday Evening Post, Argosy, Outdoor Life and Collier’s, and began to make a name for himself.
However, a trip to California alerted him to how little quality Western art existed, and he soon began vacationing and painting in the West, finally establishing a studio in Denver, Colorado and becoming a partner in the Colorado Institute of Art. His first Western easel paintings were highly successful, and in 1960 he gave up teaching and illustrating, and moved to Sedona, Arizona.
While on a roundup in 1964, Dye, Joe Beeler, and John Hampton conceived the idea of the Cowboy Artists of America, an association of professional artists who would not only paint cowboys, but would also be capable of working as cowboys. The group continues in that practice, devoted to the painting and sculpture tradition of Charles Russell and Frederic Remington. Dye served as the second president of this now prestigious and highly renowned organization.
Of his career, Dye says, “I cannot recall a time when I was not at home on horseback, or that I didn’t portray the life I led with pen and pencil. I have always tried to paint what I can remember of a life before I became dishonest and studied art.” His paintings are highly sought after today, and his works are held by many important private collections, and by museums such as the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City.
Dye was a cowboy at heart and a very successful artist in the field he knew and loved best.