In November 1964, three Arizona cowboy artists attended a roundup on a ranch in Sonora, Mexico. All with respect and passion for ranch life and cowboy culture, they basked in the Old West atmosphere of the ranch. This experience led them to confer with other artists about capturing and preserving traditional western culture through representational art, as inspired by Charles M. Russell and Frederic Remington.
On June 23, 1965, Joe Beeler, Charlie Dye, John Hampton, and George Phippen gathered at Oak Creek Tavern in Sedona to formulate a plan and create a society of artists committed to making quality and authentic art portraying the cowboy West. A few days later the founders met at Charlie Dye’s studio, and were joined by artist Fred Harman, where they formalized bylaws for the group and settled on the name Cowboy Artists of America (CAA). They would invite professional artists to join the group and stage an annual show and sale of members’ work, and hold an annual trail ride to conduct organizational business and promote camaraderie. A legacy was born.
What began one autumn day with five artists, flourished into an elite organization that has lasted over five decades to become one of the most influential artists’ groups in American history. The Cowboy Artists of America have influenced the landscape of American art in ways its founders could never have imagined. The art produced by members over the years set the standard for contemporary Western realism, and is represented in prestigious public and private collections around the world. A legacy spanning over fifty years has defined art markets and careers, created masterpieces and legends, enjoyed prosperity and fame, and endured criticism and controversy. As the longest surviving organization of fine art artists, the Cowboy Artists of America have secured a place in American history and look forward to a thriving future.
Several books have been published with comprehensive histories of the Cowboy Artists of America:
- Paint ‘n Spurs: The Men Who Founded the Cowboy Artists of America by Barbara Marriott (2016)
- The Sons of Charlie Russell by B. Byron Price (2015)
- Cowboy Artists of America by Michale Duty (2002)
- Cowboy Artists of America by Catherine A. Reynolds (1989)
- Ten Years with the Cowboy Artists of America: A Complete History and Exhibition Record by James K Howard (1976)