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Label, Bonhams, Los Angeles, California

According to Dixon biographer Donald J. Hagerty, “Although in declining health, slowly dying from emphysema that robbed his lungs of air and with only a year to live, Maynard Dixon saw 1945 as productive time. From his home on Tucson’s Prince Road, he made numerous exploratory excursions into the surrounding Sonoran Desert, sketching and painting the austere landscape. Their Ford station wagon, decorated with a large red thunderbird on its sides, was a familiar sight from Tucson to Nogales on the Mexican border. Accompanied by his third wife, Edith Hamlin, Dixon would explore the cactus and mesquite country around the Rincon, Tucson, Santa Catalina, and Tortolita Mountains, Picacho Peak, and into the sprawling Papago Reservation (now Tohono O’Odham) southwest of Tucson. A favorite and readily accessible spot was the Rillito, the large and normally arid arroyo that wandered through Tucson. That the desert was spiritually important was evident in a letter he sent to friend: ‘Here remains the solid mountains and the fluid sky (full of planes) and the sun and the stars, and my kin, the wandering desert dust.’

“Among the works he painted in 1945 is Clouds of a Summer Afternoon, most likely created somewhere between the Rillito south of Tucson and the Papago Reservation. As Dixon knew during July and August, thick white clouds from the Gulf of California would form and move all day long in a vast panorama as they marched over the horizon. Clouds of the Arizona desert hang in the blue sky, row after row receding into infinity, perfectly poised and configured to the landscape lying below. Sensitive to the horizon line, with the upper three fourths of the canvas devoted to the sky and clouds, Dixon shaped a feeling of immense distance on the painting. He painted this land with solemn fidelity, absorbing a sky vast with light and clouds and seeing it as another world massed above the earth. The painting is marked by Dixon’s unique spacing, rhythmic pattern, and a mosaic of pattern and light suggestive of the heat, light, and loneliness of the Sonoran Desert. The painting is rooted in specific landscape facts but Dixon’s ability to transcend a particular location, his power of observation and his mature style makes the painting a universal statement about the grandeur of the desert. With fluent, robust draftsmanship a taste for color, and devotion to pattern, Dixon organized the abstract elements of the canvas into a coherent structure that celebrates this desert country.”

Bonhams, Los Angeles, California, 2015
Coeur d’Alene Art Auction, Reno, Nevada, 2016
Private collection, Reno, Nevada

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