Friday, September 05, 2014

Arty Farty Friday ~ Maynard Dixon

I might not have become aware of
Maynard Dixon were it not for blog-buddy mike alerting me to a PBS American Masters programme featuring Dixon's second wife, famous photographer Dorothea Lange. My archived post on Ms Lange is HERE, by the way.

Maynard Dixon's paintings appealed to me, a lot, even from the much diluted medium of a computer screen - I'd love to find some of them in a gallery, in the "flesh".

What about the man, the painter then? What kind of man was he? Will his natal chart describe him "to a T" or hardly at all?

Maynard Dixon was born on 24 January 1875 in Fresno, California, into a fairly well-to-do family of Virginia Confederates who had moved to California after the American Civil War. His mother encouraged his gravitation to writing and drawing. He studied at the California School of Design, became part of the Bohemian Club. His first ventures to make a living from his talent involved illustration for newspapers, magazines and advertising materials. He wrote poetry too - a lesser known talent of his. There's a published volume of his poetry: Rim-Rock and Sage: The Collected Poems of Maynard Dixon (see here)

I Am (below) was written in 1936, between his second and third marriages:
Now I go out alone to ride the free hills,
bare-breasted and stark, these hills that make no concealment;
where no woman is with me,-no woman shall ever be;
where stern and alone I face the thing that I am;
where I face the void of all that I fail to be,
and knowing my fear, shall be not afraid of that fear.
Now I put out my hand, touching the sky of evening. . .
reaching, reaching between the stars, and it seems
there could be no time at which I did not exist
and no time ever at which I shall cease to be,-
while here alone in my manhood-self I am.

Chuckling. Why does this remind me of another Sun Aquarius type's writing? (Neil Diamond's song "I Am, I said")

He must have been something of "a character" - the early Bohemian influence stuck with him throughout his life. He always wore a big black Stetson hat, cowboy boots, bolo tie, carried a fancy cane and sometimes flaunted a cape. He must have rather enjoyed standing out in a crowd, whether in California, or the American south west. At heart, though, he seems to have been a solitary man.

In an article, Painterly Poet by Kevin Starr, one page of which is available HERE, Dixon is described thus:
"There was an aloofness, an essential reserve to his personality - an incipiently sardonic detachment if you will, masking the passionate, raging life within"

Another description of him by Donald J. Hagerty:
From the beginning Dixon was different: an authentic, iconoclastic, self-created individual. (HERE)

Of a book by the same D.J. Hagerty, The Art of Maynard Dixon:
An active and outspoken, sometimes a cantankerous, participant in the life of San Francisco and the West, painter Maynard Dixon (1875-1946) developed enduring themes: the majestic western landscape, the mysticism of the Native American, and (briefly, during the Great Depression) people caught in the grip of economic and social hardship.

On visits to New Mexico and Arizona Dixon found where his heart lay. He discovered his "muse" - the American south west.

Dixon married Dorothea Lange in 1920. Her iconic photographic style had an effect on his own painting style, and no doubt his painterly eye affected Lange's composition style too. It was a good match, even though he was some 20 years her senior. The couple had two sons. The marriage didn't last, however. Lange would be called away on commissions, Dixon would ride away to paint in solitude, into his beloved south west, not returning for many weeks. This wasn't a recipe for married bliss! They divorced in 1935. He married again in 1937, to Edith Hamlin, a fellow-artist, which marriage lasted until Dixon's death in 1947.

Before posting a few images of Dixon's paintings, a look at his natal chart - set for 12 noon as no time of birth is known. Moon and ascendant positions will not be accurate.

Earlier in the post there were a few brief quotes regarding Dixon's personality, as seen by biographers and others...again:
"There was an aloofness, an essential reserve to his personality - an incipiently sardonic detachment if you will, masking the passionate, raging life within"
"From the beginning Dixon was different: an authentic, iconoclastic, self-created individual."
"An active and outspoken, sometimes a cantankerous, participant in the life of San Francisco and the West..."

Anyone with basic astrological knowledge would recognise "aloof", "detachment" and "different" as keywords for the sign of Aquarius, where Maynard Dixon had Sun and two personal planets: Mercury and Saturn. I guess that Saturn added "sardonic" and "cantankerous! Jupiter and Mars in Scorpio might be seen as source of an inner passion and rage.

His natal Moon would have been in meticulous Virgo, whatever his time of birth. A Virgoan need for perfection could have been at root of his need to paint in solitude - just a guess.

There are a couple of very clear planet patterns in his chart configuration.
1. An harmonious Grand Trine in Fire signs linking Venus (art), Neptune(imagination, creativity) and Uranus (his Sun's ruler, the new and unusual). That fits well.

2. A Grand Square: Mars-Saturn-Pluto-Uranus - Here's more evidence of that reported sardonic and cantankerous side. I've noticed this type of configuration come up in the charts of political pundits and critics who are known for such traits.

Dixon's natal Venus is almost exactly conjunct my own, in Sagittarius. His paintings drew me in, at first sight - I adore New Mexico, properly titled "Land of Enchantment" too, and have, ever since my first visit there some 9 years ago.

There's a very good video, about an hour long, on Maynard Dixon's life and work: THE LINK

Examples of his paintings:

 Earth Knower, 1931/2

 Round Dance, 1931

 Forgotten Man, 1934

  Allegory by Maynard Dixon. Painted by the noted California artist between 1932 and 1935, it was donated by Marcia and Robin Williams of San Francisco. It is presently located in the office of the California State Librarian.(HERE) Interesting!

 Shapes of Fear, 1930

 Desert Storm

 No Place to Go, 1935

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mike said...

Interesting to compare Dixon's and Lange's charts. I remembered her having the dual stelliums in Gemini and Cancer. They do have some interesting synastry between them. The American Masters' program led me to believe that they were a good match, but their children were a professional handicap for Lange, who bucked the notion of "mother". I think Lange saw herself as an equal to Dixon and didn't appreciate the burden Dixon provided by his absences and his lack of "fathering". Their children were eventually placed in the care of other families, so both Dixon and Lange could pursue their careers.

My mother was born in 1921 and very much wanted to be a professional photographer. She took many photographs over the years that had a professional, artistic style unique to her, so I don't doubt that she would have been a pro. Marriage and consequent motherhood prevented her attainment of that goal. Through Dixon and Lange, I see how it could have been for me...LOL.

Yes, I think you painted a valid astrological portrait of Dixon as a person needing to be his own signature, regardless of consequences. I believe his art gave him the required tools to express himself. I'm not sure how he would have endured without that ability. His Moon in Virgo is inconjunct his stellium in Aquarius, regardless of time of birth (6 to 18* Virgo), so I don't think he was particularly "in touch" with his emotional side, particularly with sardonic Saturn-themed grand square in the mix.

His paintings are certainly appreciated by me, too. A smoothing of the prevalent Deco style of the era. All of his paintings have an abruptness about them, yet softened by the pastels...linear demarked with curvature.

mike (again) said...

P.S. - Her Saturn is on his Jupiter. Her Uranus is on his Mars, feeding his grand square. I think that these two synastic conjunctions made their marriage difficult, though they had other very positive synastry.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Here was a couple who should never, ever had had children! I suppose choices back then (regarding birth control) were very limited). I suppose their combined kids from all marriages nowadays must obviously think differently, so I oughtn't to judge.

I wish we had birth times. Dixon has the look of Gemini - I wouldn't be a bit surprised to find he had Gemini rising, and that would add to their mutual intitial attraction.

His emotions seem buried, but they are there. Absent his painting talents I guess he'd have gone for writing, full time, as a way to express himself. Had he been a writer, staying to work in the home environment, their marriage could well have lasted until his death, I think.

Thanks for your extra astrological pointers. I wish I still had access to my old, full service astro software, where it would have been possible to post a double chart showing the two together.

Anonymous said...

I did not know of Dixon's work until I saw the documentary. I really love his work, it has a deep power. I had seen the program on Lange a few days earlier and then found this one. Hearing the voices of the children created such a different impression of Lange than the one I had formed from the first program. Family bliss in one to indifferent mother in the other- despite all that Cancer!

Twilight said...

Anonymous ~ Hi there. Oh good! Nice to see a comment from someone else who has seen both progs. and admires Dixon's paintings.

It is odd about her lack of mothering instinct with her chart's Caner emphasis. I ought not to be surprised though, I have natal Cancer rising and no maternal instinct - but then, I've never had, and never wished to have, children, so no problem!

Maybe astrologers have that Cancer legend of mothering a wee bit askew.