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 Donald "Putt" Putman  (1926 - 2007)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: figure, landscape and western genre painting

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Donald Putman
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Donald "Putt" Putman 1926 - 2007  

Western artist Donald Putt Putman died Nov. 19, 2007 from complications of pulmonary fibrosis.  He was born Nov. 12, 1926.  He was 81.

Donald "Putt" Putman was born in Spokane, Washington in 1926.  Although born in  Washington, he has spent most of his life in California.  Putt attended high school in  Los Angeles, and then joined the Navy during World War II.  After the war he received a scholarship to California State University Fresno.  While in college his passion for the arts convinced him to transfer to Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles.
After completing his studies at Art Center College Putt joined Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, working at first as a porter, then the strongman catcher, and then a comic acrobat.  Putt worked during the day, but drew and painted the show people and animals during the evening.  His circus paintings include several portraits of the famous clown Emmett Kelley.

Putt met his wife Bobbie in Florida while traveling with the circus.  He eventually left the big top to get married, and returned to painting full time with the couple eventually settling in  Los Angeles to raise a family.   There he became a scenic artist for MGM.  He helped in the painting of sceneries for such movies as Mutiny on the Bounty, The Brothers Grimm and The Four Horsemen.

During the 1960's, Putt returned to Art Center College as a teacher.  It was there that he discovered that he truly loved to teach, and found great joy in helping others to shape their artistic skills.

Over the year’s Putt’s passion for portraying the people and the history of the American West earned him a reputation as an accomplished Western Painter.  His Western works include Native American portraits and scenes, frontier life, colonial Spanish ladies and Vaqueros,  dance halls, saloons, and bordellos.  While he is best known as a Westen artist, his works cover a wide range of other subjects including portraiture, dance, circus life, nudes, and landscape.

In his later years Putt devoted his time fully to his painting, doing occasional shows and teaching art workshops at his home near Yosemite National Park.  Putt was a member of the Yosemite Western Artists art organization based in Ahwahnee California.  During the last years of his life Putt painted regularly at the historical Gertrude Schoolhouse with the YWA painting group.

His paintings are in the Rochester Museum of New York, the Whitney Museum in Wyoming, and in public and private collections world-wide.
Sources include:

This biography from the Archives of AskART:

He taught Sketching for Illustration at Art Center School of Design when it was located off Third Street in Downtown Los Angeles.  He then began his own school in Hermosa Beach where he  lived with his family.  His school had a permanent stage that was slanted to give students a better eye level.  He built  and furnished  it himself with all kind of great props.  His ability to paint beautiful women was beyond comparison and his color sense is seldom duplicated.  His early paintings of circus life are very much prized, but he is known largely  for his western paintings.  He did work for the circus in Florida in his early days.  He retired to Coarse Gold, California and painted Thursdays with a group of talented artist near Yosemite.  He was a great colorist and an  understanding teacher.

Information provided by Leroy E. Ward

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Donald Pitman was born in Spokane, WA in 1926.  At 17 “Putt” Pitman dropped out of high school and joined the Navy.  After discharge, he studied at the Art Center School in Los Angeles.  For a few years he was a comic acrobat with Ringling Brothers circus before becoming a scenic artist with MGM.  He taught at Art Center School before his death in Los Angeles in 2007.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

These Notes from AskART represent the beginning of a possible future biography for this artist. Please click here if you wish to help in its development:

Don was on the art faculty at the Art Center College of Design during the mid to late '60s when it was located in Los Angeles.   His primary area of instruction was illustration.

Information provided by David Kalbach.

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