George Phippen was co-founder of the Cowboy Artists of America and the organization’s first president. His formal education consisted of a little less than eight years in a one-room country schoolhouse. “I’ve had no schooling in art except what I got from friends, artists,” he said, “and I’ve been mighty lucky to have more friends than enemies.” Despite being self-taught, Phippen became a highly respected sculptor and painter of Western art. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, he was a major advocate for the revival of lost-wax casting of bronze sculpture.
Phippen was born in Iowa in 1915 and was raised in Kansas. He was fascinated by the stories of local old-timers who had driven cattle up the Goodnight Trail; and was inspired by prints of paintings by Charles Russell and Frederick Remington. At age eighteen, he traveled west with the Civilian Conservation Corps. 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, New Mexico, and Hurlstone Fairchild of Tucson, Arizona.
Phippen’s skills as a working cowboy, hunter, and horse trainer, infused his art with authenticity. He sold his paintings through Allen Galleries of Houston, Texas, and Thomas L. Lewis Gallery of Taos, New Mexico. He worked for Babcock and Borough’s Western Stationary and Brown and Bigelow Calendars. He also illustrated many books and magazines such as True West, Frontier Times, Quarter Horse Journal, Appaloosa News, and Western Horseman.
“The art game, which includes illustrating, fine art, and cartooning; is considered about the toughest business there is,” Phippen once said. “I compare it with music, writing, and acting. They are mighty hard to get into, but no job holds the freedom the arts do once you make the grade.”
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
CAA Member from 1965-1966
Born: July 11, 1915
Studied under Henry Balink