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 Tom (Thomas) Ryan  (1922 - 2011)

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Lived/Active: Texas/Arizona/Illinois      Known for: cowboy genre, western theme painting, illustration

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Following is an obituary of the artist from mywesttexas.com, posted December 15, 2011, and written by Georgia Temple.

The longhorns appear to be busting out of the west wall of the Midland County Public Library. The mural, In the New World, was designed by Tom Ryan, a well known and highly respected Western artist honored in 1996 by the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City (now the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum) with the Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award.

"I couldn't believe it," Ryan, who had lived here since 1982, told the Reporter-Telegram in 1996 when he received the award. "I never expected it, and I guess that's why it made me feel so good."

Ryan had been a frequent exhibitor in the Prix de West shows there, and in 1996 completed The Remuda, a monumental work of art that depicts 30 galloping ranch horses and two cowhands — one in the lead and the other waving a lasso and riding drag. The silhouette-style work graces the exterior walls of the west wing of the Hall of Fame.

In 1998, Ryan sketched the design for the mural on the west wall of the Midland County Public Library and supervised its execution by Midland artist Peter Himmelberg. Inside the library, visitors can see two limited edition framed prints by Ryan — Calf Buster and Sharing an Apple.

In 2002, Ryan said goodbye to his friends and colleagues here to move to Arizona to be closer to his sons. This month, his Midland friends said goodbye to Ryan, who died Dec. 10 in Phoenix. He was 89.

Ryan was born Jan. 12, 1922, in Springfield, Ill., to William Martin Ryan — whose family immigrated to Illinois from Ireland in the 1880s — and Sarah Helen Behrens, whose ancestry predates the Revolutionary War. They had nine children — six boys and three girls. He began drawing before he went to school.

"I was 4 years old and drawing airplanes, and an older brother was helping me," Ryan told the Reporter-Telegram in a 2002 interview at the Haley Library's going away party held in his honor. "Those were my first art lessons."

He did not decide to be an artist until after his service in World War II. While in the U.S. Navy during the war, he "made quite a bit of money" drawing portraits of his shipmates and other servicemen. After being discharged in 1945, he picked up a Life magazine that carried an article about N.C. Wyeth.

"I read the article, and I liked what I read, and I loved the pictures reproduced from his paintings in the article," Ryan said in 2002. "I decided then and there to be an artist."
Following his graduation from the American Academy of Art, an education made possible through the GI Bill, he returned to Springfield where he married Jacqueline "Jacquie" Harvey, daughter of a local doctor. She died in 1998.

The Ryans moved to New York City where he continued his studies at the Art Students League. During his second year at the Art Students League, he won a contest. His winning painting became the cover for Western writer Ernest Haycox's novel The Outlaw.

"Every month after that I also received an assignment from this publisher, and they would be Western novels," Ryan said in 2002. "So that's what I did for the next six or seven years. Then I started exhibiting at the Latendorf Gallery on Madison Avenue. What I sold mainly were the book covers. They would be published and I would get paid by the publisher, and I'd take them to the gallery, and I'd get paid again."

Ryan began making trips west in the late 1950s. He would stay three or four months painting, sketching and photographing scenes he'd need later. At that time, his works centered around historical events and places.

"I particularly liked to do some of the trail drive things that I did, like the old longhorns," Ryan said in 2002.

In the early 1960s, a work by Norman Rockwell and one by Ryan appeared in the same catalog. Rockwell, who was doing the Boy Scouts calendars for Brown and Bigelow, the premiere calendar publishing company in the United States, told the calendar company about Ryan.

"The art director gave me a call and asked if I'd like to do a contemporary cowboy painting for Brown and Bigelow," Ryan said in 2002. "I damn near fell out of the chair. It was unbelievable."

He traveled west to the 6666 Ranch and 'fell in love" with the place. From the material he put together during his three-week stay, he did his first calendar for Brown and Bigelow. He also quit painting historical scenes and "went smack right in on the cowboy contemporary scene."
In the mid-1960s, he was invited to join the Cowboy Artists of America and served as president 1969-1970. He also, during those years, moved to Texas, settling first in Lubbock and then in Stamford.

In 1971, his work was featured in a book by Dean Krakel, Tom Ryan: A Painter in Four Sixes Country. He was director of the OS Ranch Art Exhibit at the OS Ranch, Post, in 1973, and a year later did the same thing for the Stamford Art Foundation.

In the mid-1970s, Ryan participated in four or five shows annually. In 1977, he added the Nita Stewart Haley Memorial Library's Art Show and Sale to his list. In 1987, he was the Arts Assembly (now Council) of Midland's Celebration of the Arts Distinguished Artist. His work hangs in private collections and public facilities across the country.

In 1994, he was honored by his hometown and home state. The Springfield Art Association honored him with an exhibition of 45 paintings on loan from institutions and collections. Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar proclaimed Sept. 10, 1994, Tom Ryan Day in Illinois and the mayor of Springfield issued the same proclamation.

His work was featured in a 2002 book, this time a 250-page coffee table book, Cowboy Artists of America, that showcases art by 24 artists. Within its covers are seven works by Ryan.

"From the 1960s through the 1990s Ryan exhibited in a wide variety of one-man and group shows and won virtually every honor available to a contemporary Western artist," said the biography of Ryan on the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum website, noting that a 2001 career retrospective at the museum that featured not only Ryan's paintings and drawings, but also many of the 6666 Ranch photographs that served as his source material, demonstrated "the breadth and depth of his artistic legacy."

In her 2001 book on Ryan, Susan McGarry wrote: "His legacy of paintings not only documents 20th century cowboy life, it is also a profound statement about [the] indomitable spirit of men caught up in complex relationships with other men, with animals and with the unpredictable faces of Mother Nature."


Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, V:
Known for his well drawn and meticulously realistic western genre paintings, Tom Ryan began his career as a New York illustrator, but by the 1950’s was doing Western subject matter. He has become one of America's best-known Western artists, an assertion supported by the fact that in 1996, he won the Prix de West Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ryan was born in Illinois, trained in the Midwest and New York, and then worked as a magazine jacket illustrator before beginning his Western art career. His admiration for the illustration skills of Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth, and his understanding of cowboys and ranch life combine in skillfully and convincingly executed works.

In West Texas, Ryan found abundant material for fresh and original paintings of subjects that he could see and feel and know from an intimate perspective. The result has been a wide-ranging body of work--- paintings of cattle, cattle country and the people who live and work there, all created with the strength and vitality of one who has seen it with his own eyes.

His work has appeared in numerous magazines devoted to western life and culture. Among these are Western Horseman, The Quarter Horse Journal, The Gilcrease Magazine of American History and Art, Southwest Art magazine, Art of the West magazine, and Persimmon Hill magazine, as well as Time and Life.

His work is featured at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and at leading galleries and museums throughout the Southwest.

Ryan currently lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is a member of the Cowboy Artists of America and the National Academy of Western Art.

Source:
www.tomryan.net

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Tom Ryan is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Illustrators
Western Painters



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