Tom Lea, who died in 2001, was a realist who painted things as they were but just happened to see more of what they were than most of us do. As a muralist, painter, book illustrator, World War II artist-correspondent, historian, novelist, and humanist, Lea created a corpus of art that has captivated those who know it. This memorial volume presents the full range of his vigorous work. Old admirers of Lea's talents will delight in this presentation, and a whole new generation will be awed by the unique contribution he has made. A Southewesterner from multicultural El Paso, he lent new vision to the misunderstood lands often thought of as barren wastes. But it is not just the Southwest that Lea knew. He also brought marvelous detail to his portrayal of the Mexican bullfighter, the Australian ranches and Texas cattle of the King empire, and the Indians, pioneers, and ranch hands of his own corner of the world. On assignment in China, he developed a love for that land that gave him his favorite and, in later years, most characteristic medium: Chinese ink applied with a fine brush. In China, too, he came to know the ideograms whose symbols became for him, in William Weber Johnson's words, a "sort of personal artistic trinity": the earth, the sky, and man between. These elements--interpreted through a stunning talent--inspired the art of the incomparable Tom Lea.
Kathleen G. Hjerter, a published art historian, served as curator of the art collection of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin. The late William Weber Johnson was professor emeritus of journalism at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a former bureau chief for Time-Life, Becky Duval Reese is the director of the El Paso Museum of Art.
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