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MARJORIE REED (1915-1996)

"Butterfield Stage Arrival"

"Butterfield Stage Arrival"

20" x 24", Oil on Canvas 20036

Marjorie Reed

1915 - 1996


Western artist Marjorie Reed is best known for her paintings of the stage stations and scenes along the Butterfield Overland Stage Route.  Born in Springfield, Illinois in 1915, she grew up in Los Angeles where her father, Walter Reed, was an illustrator for Walt Disney.  She claimed that as a young girl her inner urge to draw horses was so strong that she would sometimes walk up to eighteen miles just to sit on a corral fence and sketch the horses in action.  This inner drive combined with her father’s tutelage and her mother’s love of art helped Marjorie develop her talent at a young age.


By her early teens she had already designed Christmas cards for several major companies.  At the age of fourteen, while working for a Disney Studios subsidiary, her work was recognized by Walt Disney himself.  Impressed by her talent, Disney gave her a position in the animation department.  However she quit not long afterwards, commenting in later years that she could never adjust to the regimentation required by animation work.


After graduating from Glendale High School she attended Chouinard Art School and the Art Center school in Los Angeles.  Yet she credited her most important formal training to well known California landscape artist Jack Wilkinson Smith.  She also credited Smith with encouraging her to roam the California countryside for inspiration.


During one of her trips she came in contact with Captain William Banning, who had been an actual stage coach driver for his father, Phineas Banning, the “Father of Los Angeles Harbor” and the owner of Southern California shipping empire.  Immediately captivated by Banning’s knowledge of stage coaches and horse teams, Marjorie was influenced by Banning to embark on a project that set the course for her signature work.


Tracing the Butterfield Overland stage route through California, she created a series of twenty paintings, each one a representation of the various stage stations or other well known locations along the routes.  For authenticity and to realistically capture the essence of the route, Reed camped out at every stage station she painted.  When the series was finished in 1958, the entire collection of twenty paintings was purchased by James S. Copley, owner and publisher of the San Diego Union Tribune.


The success of this project led to a series of subsequent projects which traced the Butterfield route from California eastward all the way to its origin in Tipton, Missouri.  She completed a series of paintings for every state along the way: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and finally Missouri.  The result was a series of paintings that at the time captured national attention for its historical as well as artistic aspects.  A total of four books were eventually published based on these paintings; one each for California and Arizona, another for New Mexico and Texas, and the fourth one for the remaining three states.


Reed’s early start in life allowed her make her living as an artist for over 65 years.  As a result she left behind a very large body of work which consists primarily of Western themes.  Although she is best known for her Butterfield paintings, her subject matter was known to range from placid paintings of burros (which she raised most of her life) to conquistadors to cowboys on bucking broncos to Western landscapes.  In the 1940’s, she painted “quite a lot of canyon scenes” as well as many stage scenes under the pseudonym of Harvey Day, which was actually the name of her second husband who had a job in the Grand Canyon area.  It was not unheard of at the time for women artists to paint using men’s names for commercial purposes.  Yet Reed claimed in a 1995 letter that she instead used her husband’s name because at the time there was so much demand for her work that “perhaps I could get a little break from a too busy life”.


In the 1970’s, Bank One in Tucson commissioned her to do a series of Navajo scenes from the Four Corners area.  Seven of the paintings still hang today of the Bank One in Tucson.  Not long afterwards a private collector commissioned her to do a series of nine paintings with Hopi scenes in the Three Mesas area.  In addition to the original Butterfield paintings she did hundreds more of both Butterfield and other stage coach scenes.


Reed claimed to have moved over eighty times in her life, spending most of her years in Arizona and Southern California.  Her longest stay in one place was spent in the Tombstone area where she used to own and operate the Adobe Gallery in the 1960’s and 70’s.  On Sunday nights she would teach art classes for elementary school kids at the gallery.


Throughout her life she was deeply religious in nature.  Reed claimed in a letter to a friend once that she “never painted anything.  I just held the brush and God did the work.”  She also felt her art was inspired partly as a result of the frustration she felt in being denied a ranching life.  The pleasure experienced by those who enjoyed her work then alleviated this frustration, a frustration she claimed could only be alleviated “by returning the gift of the Creator”.


In later years in life, she traveled to the Holy land where she lived amongst Bedouins and painted many desert and biblical scenes.  She was an extremely pious woman and after the death of her husband, was moved to travel to these distant lands and live and paint the subject matter that uplifted her spiritually.


Marjorie Reed died while raking leaves a few days after Thanksgiving in 1997 at Campbell Ranch in Vallecito, California.  Fittingly enough, Vallecito was a master station on the Butterfield Route and was a location which she painted several times.  Not far from Vallecito is La Casa Del Zorro resort in Borrego Springs, where many of the original Butterfield California paintings purchased by the Copley family still hang today.


Her work is also featured at the Julian Pioneer Museum in Julian, California.


Galerie Gabrie is proud to offer you the works of Marjorie Reed.



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