Maynard Dixon, “Lone Bull”, 1918, Oil on Canvas, Private Collection
Maynard Dixon’s stay at Cut Bank Creek, on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, ended in early October, 1917 when snow and biting cold arrived forcing him to return to San Francisco. Energized by his experience, he started to produce work drawn from his experiences in the Glacier Park and on the Blackfeet Reservation. For several years afterwards, some of Dixon’s most notable Native American- themed paintings emerged from his Montgomery Street studio, among them “Lone Bull”.
In this 1918 painting, Dixon has captured the image of a young Blackfeet man astride his horse, dressed in only a breechcloth and leggings, relaxed but keeping a close watch over the camp’s horse herd. Beyond them the vast Montana prairie rolls toward the horizon. The Montana stay unleashed a period of creative accomplishments for Dixon as he shifted from a quasi-impressionist approach to a post-impressionist style defined by strong brush strokes, bold color patterns, and careful design.
Like a number of other artists of his generation, Dixon embraced the idea that the Native American stood as a counterpoint to the destructive forces unleashed by the rise of an industrial-oriented America. For Dixon, the Indian lived and moved and had their being drawn from an older, better way of knowledge and behavior. The theme in “Lone Bull” was replicated in 1920 when Dixon painted “Pony Boy”, one of his most iconic images.