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 Ralph Mason  (1916 - 2008)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: Western scene, animal, sports and portrait painting

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Ad Code: 4
Ralph Mason
Calgary Stampede
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Ralph Mason (1916-2008)

He was an American Impressionist painter with his career spanning over 40 years.

Born in Seattle, Washington, Ralph Mason became a dentist by trade in California but retired in 1980 to pursue painting full-time, declaring that he “lived to paint.”

Ralph showed exceptional ability with his hands from an early age, drawing portraits in high school.  Later getting the highest scores ever recorded in manual dexterity at the University of Minnesota, he was advised to begin a career in dentistry.  He served in the dental corps of the United States Army during World War II, and briefly studied portraiture with an artist in Germany.

Ralph’s love of painting was renewed in the early 1960s when he met a local painter at Newport Beach, CA, James (Clutter) Colt (1922-2005), primarily known for his bold and dramatic impressionist paintings.  Taking private lessons from Colt for several years, Ralph also learned the style of Russian Impressionism passed down to Colt from Russian painter, Sergie Bongart (1918-1985), a respected California/Idaho painter and educator primarily known for his tonalist landscapes, still lifes and portraits.  Bongart had spent six-and-a-half years training under scholarship with renowned Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955), one of America's foremost ethnic portrait painters during the early 20th century.

Ralph's training and influence by Russian Impressionism is apparent in his work, as is his influence by Western artist James Reynolds.  Ralph also took classes directly from James Reynolds, who taught him “not to use a pencil [to gauge distances and angles], and distribute darks equally on both sides to balance the painting.”  Although Ralph took lessons from watercolorist Robert Landry and also dabbled in sculpture at a local community college, he discovered that he preferred the challenges of working with oils as a medium.

Ralph spent a lifetime mastering the techniques of oil painting to render color, shapes, texture, movement and likenesses. In his own words, he sought to "bring things to light with color." In his painting and in his life, he strove to achieve perfection in color, unity and balance. “Everything is relative,” he liked to say, and “if it doesn’t move you, don’t do it.” He enjoyed the difficulties of subjects that required a high level of drawing skill and technique, especially Western themes, sports, animals and portraits of celebrities, family and friends. His greatest delights were capturing emotion and movement, as well as seeing a portrait come together and the personality “pop out.”

Ralph Mason won many awards including several "Best of Shows" throughout his career.

Exhibitions/Awards:
El Mirador Hotel, Palm Springs CA
Desert Art Center of Coachella
Valley CA (Best Amateur & Best Professional )
Jurupa CA Art Show (Best in Show)
Art Alliance of Idyllwild, CA
Feats of Clay, Idyllwild, CA
Pop Arts Portrait Gallery, Idyllwild CA
Sunrise Country Club, Rancho Mirage CA

His work has also been published in numerous magazines:
Palm Springs Art Magazine, 1969
Treasury of Art
, 1968-69, 1970-71 and 1972-73
The Desert Art Center, Inc. of Coachella Valley
Desert Living Magazine
, 1980

In addition, a painting of President Ronald Reagan by Ralph Mason, which he considered one of his finest works, was also exhibited in 1969 at the El Mirador Hotel in Palm Springs at a Republican fund raising dinner where President Reagan was guest of honor.

Ralph Mason used many signatures over the 40-year span of his painting career. In his early days while he was still practicing dentistry and painting as a hobby, he would sometimes sign "Dr. Ralph Mason" or "Dr. Mason."  Following his retirement from dentistry, he began signing as "Ralph Mason."  For the last several years, he simplified to "R. Mason."  Always focused on improving his technique, he continued working on all facets of his art until he laid down his brush at age 89. A prolific painter, he painted over 600 paintings in his career.

Sources:
The Desert Art Center, Inc. of Coachella Valley
Desert Living
Riverside Press Enterprise/Riverside County Record
 Idyllwild Town Crier
Hemet News
Family of Ralph Mason

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