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 George Phippen  (1915 - 1966)

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Lived/Active: Arizona/Iowa      Known for: cowboy genre, wildlife, sculptor

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George Phippen
from Auction House Records.
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
George Phippen was born July 11, 1915 in Iowa.  His family moved from Iowa to Emmett (near St. Mary’s, Kansas) in 1919.  In 1933, at the age of 18, Phippen joined the Civilian Conservation Corps working first in Minnesota and then in Washington.  Left the Corps in 1939 to return to Kansas for a year and then went back to Washington and California before settling in Tucson, AZ in 1940. 

During World War II, he wanted to be a combat artists for the Army, but was stationed at Fort Warden in Washington where he worked in photography and drafting.  After the war, Phippen and his family moved to the Southwest, where he received informal tutoring in oil painting from Henry Balink of Santa Fe, NM and Hurlstone Fairchild of Tucson, AZ. 

Successful as a commercial artist and illustrator, he illustrated many books and magazines such as True West, Frontier Times, Quarter Horse Journal, Appaloosa News, and Western Horseman.  Phippen began oil painting in 1948 while selling works for Christmas cards and calendars.  He was co-founder and first president of the Cowboy Artists of America and he established a ranch, studio, and foundry in Skull Valley, AZ.  The Phippen Museum in Prescott, AZ opened in 1984.  He died in Skull Valley, Arizona on April 13, 1966.

Exhibitions: Cowboy Artists of America; Phippen Museum, 2004.

Collections: Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo; Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center; Desert Caballeros Western Museum; Gilcrease Institute; National Center for American Western Art; National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum; Phippen Museum of Western Art; Phoenix Art Museum.
Susan Craig, "Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945)"
AskART,, accessed Oct. 22, 2007; Phippen, Louise. George Phippen: the man, the artist. (Prescott, AZ: Ralph Tanner Assocs. Inc., 1983); Pamphlet file at the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery Library in Washington, DC.; Topeka Capital (Aug. 11, 1957, Apr. 14, 1966).

This and over 1,750 other biographies can be found in Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945) compiled by Susan V. Craig, Art & Architecture Librarian at University of Kansas.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
From Prescott and Skull Valley, Arizona, George Phippen, raised on farms in Iowa and Kansas, was a sculptor and painter in representational style of western genre, figures, and horses.  He is best remembered for his bronze sculptures such as Cowboy in a Storm.

When he was serving in World War II, he taught himself to paint and then went to Santa Fe, New Mexico where he worked with artist Henry Balink for several months.  At first he worked as an illustrator and commercial artist, doing Christmas cards and calendars, and in 1948 began fine-art painting with oils.  According to Don Hedgpeth in his 1972 article for the OS Ranch Committee, Phippen was called " 'The Cowboy's Artist' because his 'cowboys look like men we have known.  They aren't handsome but they sure did now cow.' " (Samuels 372).

One of his sculptures, Wimpy was commissioned in 1958 by the King Ranch in Texas to commemorate its first registered quarter horse.  The work is in the collection of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

He was one of the founders and first president of the Cowboy Artists of America and began his career as a self-taught illustrator.  He then established a ranch, studio, and foundry in Skull Valley, and when he died of cancer in 1966.  His wife then wrote about his career.

Sources include:
Peggy and Harold Samuels, The Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West
Peter Hastings Falk (editor), Who Was Who in American Art

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, V:
The first president of the Cowboy Artists of America, George Phippen is known as a traditional Western painter and sculptor. He was born on a farm in Iowa and was raised there and in Kansas. He taught himself to paint while in service during World War II.

After finishing his stint in the military, Phippen moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he studied with Henry Balink for three months. Successful as a commercial artist and illustrator, he began oil painting in 1948 while selling works for Christmas cards and calendars.

Phippen was called "the cowboy's artist," because his "cowboys look like men we have all known. They aren't handsome, but they sure did know cow."

In 1958, Phippen was commissioned to sculpt the famous quarterhorse Wimpy. He continued to sculpt, specializing in the modeling of cowboy scenes. When he died of cancer, his Skull Valley, Arizona, studio was made into a public gallery and his widow wrote a book of recollections of the artist.

Reference: Samuels' Encyclopedia of the American West, by Peggy and Harold Samuels

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