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 Ace Powell  (1912 - 1978)

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Lived/Active: Montana/New Mexico / Mexico      Known for: cowboy genre, Indian figure

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Ad Code: 3
Ace Powell
from Auction House Records.
His Wealth
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Tularosa, New Mexico, he became a painter of western action scenes, wild animals, and Indian figures in realistic style and in the tradition of Charles Russell. Powell's trademark signature on his paintings is the ace of diamonds, which also became his nickname.

He was prolific, creating between 12,000 and 15,000 paintings and sculptures. He considered oil to be his best medium although he loved sculpting in terra cotta, stone, and wood. He also was skilled at etching.

His life has involved many changes of location and personal circumstance, much of it due to his alcoholism, which he eventually overcame. Eventually he settled in Kalispell.

He moved to Montana at age one month. His mother was a schoolteacher, and his father was a cowboy foreman on the Ben Steven's horse ranch, then a homesteader, and eventually a worker for the Glacier National Park Service.

Charlie Russell' s summer home was near the Powell home, and the Russells were family friends and encouraged Asa, nicknamed "Ace" in his artistic talent. He loved the Blackfeet Indians so much his father sent him to school on their reservation, and these people became one of his most frequent subjects. He also worked on the Bar X Six Ranch where he was a saddle-horse guide for many visiting successful western artists. He built a studio in Choteau, Montana and from there worked as a wood animal sculptor and also did book illustrations.

After his first wife died when he was 29, he was briefly in the Army, worked in a defense plant, and was in the plastic figurine business in Yakima, Washington, but his partner ran off with his second wife, obviously terminating their business arrangement.

He returned to Glacier Park for six years with his young son and then at age 40 enrolled in the University of Montana on the G.I. Bill. But he disliked the abstract art being promoted, so he quit and took the Famous Artists correspondence course, which really helped him down the path that established his art career.

In 1952, he married artist Nancy McLaughlin, and in Hungry Horse, Montana they successfully operated a gallery, but it burned to the ground in 1964. They divorced, and in 1965, he married Thelma Conner.

Biography from Flathead Gallery:
Lonely Warriors astride horses riding through cold nights past warm dimly lit cabins are often depicted in Ace Powell’s paintings.  He painted what he knew from tales he had heard sitting near old warriors when he was growing up upon the Blackfeet Reservation.   Soon after Ace’s birth in 1912 in New Mexico, his father brought the family to Montana.  As an adult, Powell found work as a cowboy on a horse ranch, then as a small rancher, and eventually as wrangler for Glacier National Park Service

Apgar in Glacier Park was the gathering place for multitudes of artists drawn by the scenery, possible employment with Great Northern Railroad and sales to wealthy visiting art patrons.  Bull Head Lodge, Charles M Russell summer home near by, was focus of the developing school.  One can only guess at how great artists like Russell, Joe de Yong and host of others interacted with the young teen age wrangler who was likely first trying his hands with the tools of the art trade.  Here though the seed was planted that would grow and lead Powell upon his own path and would blossom into over ten thousands works of arts drawn from first hand experiences along with those learned from firelight tales.

Powell, like many others upon the frontier, followed the “Rounder” path of marriages, army service, hard drinking and cowboying, but like the lonely rider in many of his paintings whose horse is finally tied to the hitching post of a Northern Plains ranch cabin he found his home near Glacier National Park in Hungry Horse Montana .

His home here from the 1950’s till the 60’s was like Charles Russell’s with artists coming and going including his wife Nancy McLaughlin and his own son David Powell who started his trail to a Cowboy Artist of America induction here.  After a fire in 1964, Ace Powell and Nancy chose separate paths and divided.  Soon after Powell partnered with Thelma Conner and spent the next 14 years traveling the art trail with her, till his death in Kalispell in 1978.

Many works by Ace Powell are in the permanent collection of the Hockaday Museum of Art 302 Second Avenue East, Kalispell, Montana.

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, V:
Born in Tularosa, New Mexico, Asa Lynn Powell, known as “Ace,” was a traditional Western painter. He portrayed what he knew, the life and land of northwestern Montana.

The son of a cowboy and a teacher, Powell was raised in Apgar, Montana on the south end of Lake McDonald. His father was a stable boss, guide and packer in Glacier National Park, and he passed his knowledge and abilities on to his son. By age ten, Powell was a working wrangler.

He went to high school in Browning, and attended Montana State University. During this time, he continued working as a cowboy, breaking and wrangling horses east of Glacier Park.

As a boy, Powell had watched Charles Russell paint in Bull’s Head Lodge in Apgar. In 1938, after a few private art lessons, Powell became a self-taught artist, following in Russell’s footprints to sketch and paint what he knew best, the cowboy and the Indian with their horses in the region around Glacier Park. He also wrote and illustrated a 1965 book entitled "The Ace of Diamonds," a work that contained his recollections and anecdotes.

Powell remained in Montana until his death.

Reference: "Samuels’ Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West," by Peggy and Harold Samuels

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