Maynard Dixon was born in 1875 into a family of aristocratic Virginia Confederates, whom after the Civil War had found a new home in Fresno, California. His mother was a daughter of a Navy officer from San Francisco. Dixon coincidentally spent most of his life there. In 1900 he visited Arizona and New Mexico and developed a passion for the roaming west. In California he developed his own theme of western modernist painting, utilizing the grand landscapes of the desert in beautiful vivid colors. He made a living illustrating books and magazines in this style.
He had a brief stint in New York, where continued to illustrate in his now famous western theme. He quickly realized that only back home could create “honest art of the west” instead of the romanticized versions he was being paid for in the big city. He picked up and moved back to San Francisco. It was there he met and married American photographer Dorthea Lange. At the time she had just started her own portrait studio in San Francisco. Dixon opened Lange’s eyes to photographing outside of the studio and in the open air, which clearly had a prolific effect on her vision and career.
You know Lange, she took this photograph:
Dixon and Lange
Dixon continued with his passion for painting the rural west and further developed his own career as an artist
While in San Francisco, Dixon dressed like a cowboy and was determined to impose his Cowboy style onto the city lifestyle, most often in the form of a black Stetson hat, boots and a bolo tie. His even named his 2nd son John Eaglefeather Dixon.