"During the last several years of his life, Maynard Dixon created a series of watercolors documenting the contemporary ranch life around Tucson and other areas of Southern Arizona. Although seriously ill, these watercolors represent some of Dixon's best work in this medium. Subjects for the watercolors were drawn from excursions to ranches tucked away in the Rincon, Tortolita, Santa Catalina, and Tucson mountain ranges. A favorite location was the annual Indian fair and rodeo at Sells. Edith Hamlin, Dixon's third wife recalled he would watch the scenes, whether at a rodeo or just sitting in his car, then quickly make some pencil sketches for later translation into watercolors back at his studio-home. Often guided by fellow painter Pete Martinez, Dixon and Hamlin made the rounds of local cowboy culture, looking for the color and excitement of cowboy activities. Dixon showed he could still be a master of the watercolor medium with their organization of space and fresh, clear colors. According to Hamlin, if Dixon showed them in local galleries like the Ronstadt Gallery, Tucson Center of Arts and Crafts and others they sold immediately. Perhaps more important Dixon was losing the battle for his health, in the past year and a half of his life, tethered to an oxygen bottle that helped counter the effects of worsening emphysema. Watercolors were less taxing physically than working in oils and they could be created at his studio-home." Hagerty
“I was born and raised an American. My people came from England to Virginia before the Revolution; fought in that conflict and did their part in forming the new Republic; went west to the Mississippi in 1820 and prospered with the country; lost everything in the Civil War and in 1868 came to California to make a new start. My boyhood home was a raw California boom town where men drank, gambled in land values and shot one another over irrigation rights.
“For us, history began (almost), with Bunker Hills and the Declaration. All our guarantees were set forth in the Bill of Rights, and that meant what it said. Under it, people could live and move; could look one another in the eye and freely discuss matters of the public interest, in open difference of opinion. This was assured to all men. It was American.
“Friendships were genuine, based on character-- not money. A man’s word could be in fact as good as his bond-- and the average was high. The subservient ‘white collar’ class was not evident; the ‘yes man’ of the big corporations had not yet become a national figure; and that bootlicking phrase, ‘the customer is always right,’ had not yet been invented….”
“My work, outside the limits of illustration, is not the regulation ‘Wild West’ type of painting. It aims rather to interpret the vastness, the loneliness, and the sense of freedom this country inspires. I want to make my paintings show the people as a part of that. To me the wind of the wastelands has color; the opalescent ranges of the desert seem to me like music; and sometimes the giant clouds of storm, piled far above the mountains, take form as of lost and forgotten gods, serene and terrible.”
Nor is his deep understanding of the Western scene and its heroic and little known folk revealed only in his canvases. In his too infrequent verse he displays equal insight, a characteristic portrayed in all his diversified talents.