Gerard Curtis Delano (1890-Deceased)
Curtis Delano was born in Marion, Massachusetts in 1890. A descendant
of a 1621 Pilgrim, he began his art studies in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
In 1910, he became the pupil of George Bridgman at the Art Students League
of New York. As a pupil, his instructors included Dean Cornwell, Harvey
Dunn, and N. C. Wyeth at the Grand Central School of Art. In 1919, shortly
after his release from World War I Naval service, Delano had a chance
to "go west." He took a summer sojourn to Colorado and hired out as a
"hand" at a cattle spread there, learned to ride, and became acquainted
with the vivid panorama of the area. It was after his return to New York
City for renewed study at the Art Student's League that he sold his first
western cover to Ace-High Magazine. More sales of covers to Ace-High followed,
along with dozens of black and white illustrations for that magazine's
story features. This led to work with other publications, and soon he
was firmly launched as a cover artist and illustrator for Ace-High, Western
Story, Adventure, Cowboy Stories, Ranch Romances, Colliers and others,
including Cosmopolitan. During that fabulous era (1922-1935) there appears
to be scarcely a publisher or editor of the leading fiction periodicals
who didn't require some "Delano" to dress up his story presentations.
Delano did all right until the mid-1930's, when magazines and publishing
houses began folding up right and left. At the height of the depression
the spigot had been shut off so tight that Delano couldn't pay his studio
rent. He went bust. It was then that Delano began to consider his talent
in a different light. Since 1940, when he painted "Navajo Shepherdess,"
Gerard Curtis Delano became the painter of the Navajo.
If it were not for the fact that Gerard Curtis Delano has spent the last forty years developing into one of our most outstanding western painters, he surely would have made an equally impressive mark on American life in, another dedicated calling -- in an earlier era as a circuit rider, possibly -- another Brother Van. For Faith has been a mainstay in Delano's trek along western trails -- trails that were sometimes dim, even treacherous. To put it another way, he's had his ups and downs; times when the trail ahead all but vanished.
Jerry Delano began drawing "Indians on horses" as a four-year old in Marion, Massachusetts at the turn of the century. During early boyhood, a favorite evening amusement was to draw by the light of an old kerosene lamp, the action packed exploits of cowboys, Indians, hoboes, and all the intrepid adventurers that storybook tales and sagas of bold deeds had imprinted upon the imaginative youngster.
He had more than ordinary talent, but his folks weren't overly enthusiastic about his pursuing this vein as a career. New England heritage, by and large, prompted a somewhat more "practical" line of endeavor, and decisive action toward his ultimate objectives had to be deferred for a few years until reasonable opportunity presented itself.
In 1919, shortly after his release from World War I Naval service, Delano had a chance to "go west." He took a summer sojourn to Colorado and hired out as a "hand" at a cattle spread there, learned to ride, and became acquainted with the vivid panorama of a country which was real-earthy, colorful, exciting. This was the West that had been inspiration for some of those earlier efforts at his mother's table by lamplight. By the time he returned East, the impact of that summer's fulfillment had made irrevocable claim upon his aspirations.
Back in New York, Delano picked up where he had left off, after a fashion, but the lure of that enchanted land across the Mississippi had a tug on his collar that wouldn't permit release in spite of the reasonable success he was enjoying in the field of illustration.
Two years later he filed on a homestead on Cataract Creek in the mountains of Summit County, Colorado, and built there a 2O'x3O' log cabin studio. Now he began to paint with vigor and dash-and with a sense of purpose. After living on the place the required time, he returned to New York to replenish his depleted resources. Along with his satchel of modest belongings went a portfolio of pictorial nuggets that had been distilled from the clear springs trickling down from the Summit County mountains beside his snug cabin-studio.
It was after his return to New York City for renewed study at the Art Student's League that he sold his first western cover to Ace-High Magazine. The subject was a cowboy in angora chaps riding a bucking horse. More sales of covers to Ace-High followed, along with dozens of black and white illustrations for that magazine's story features. This led to work with other publications, and soon he was firmly launched as a cover artist and illustrator for Ace-High, Western Story, Adventure, Cowboy Stories, Ranch Romances, Colliers and others, including Cosmopolitan. During that fabulous era (1922-1935) there appears to be scarcely a publisher or editor of the leading fiction periodicals who didn't require some "Delano" to dress up his story presentations. Researchers of "Pulp Americana," an entirely new pursuit which has emerged during the past few years, are astounded at the prolific, yet amazingly competent, work of the talented young illustrator.
New Western, Hunting and Fishing, Short Stories, West, Northwest Stories, All Western, Big Book Western, Frontier Stories, Star, Complete Stories, Air Adventures, Hunter-Trader-Trapper, Snappy Stories, Everybody's, Top Notch-all carried "Illustrations by Delano." It seems the more old magazines that come to light, the more the work of Delano shows up. These were big, plush years for fast-moving fiction -- and for the authors and artists connected with it.
Delano did all right until the mid-'30s, when magazines and publishing houses began folding up right and left. At the height of the depression the spigot had been shut off so tight that Delano couldn't pay his studio rent. He went bust.
One thing remained-his rent-free studio on the Colorado Mountainside and there he went, bag and baggage-for keeps. This was the land which initially had been a fountainhead of inspiration for him; and it was to provide an even finer sustenance in the months that followed. It was here in the primitive element during the long, hard winter months that Delano had time to reflect.
Life on the homestead was rugged and just the chores of daily living took much of his time. But he was able to sell an occasional magazine cover back in New York. Fortunately, it cost little to live there, so his dog "Buddy" and he made out very well even though the year's total income was $400.
Three mighty lean years followed. There were a few brief flurries of better fortune-an art assignment of measurable consequence now and then-but for the most part Delano's career was in limbo. Art projects and allied ventures would seem to go along well enough for a spell and then, for little apparent reason, fizzle out into a discouraging blob of red ink on the ledger book. It wasn't even a "hot and cold" sort of affair-things just didn't ever get much beyond the "lukewarm" stage.
It was then that Delano began to consider his talent in a different light. He says it best, I believe, in the following gist from one of his conversations: "I realized that all my efforts thus far had been solely with the idea of self advancement. Now I felt it was important to change my point of view to that of rendering a service to and for God. My thoughts changed from getting to giving. God had given me a talent with which to create beauty, and this was what He wanted me to do."
A slogan of the Navajo, "Walk with Beauty," became the guidepost to his rededicated efforts in the field of art. Through the years, in blossom and in wilt, the principal theme of Delano's canvases consistently centered around the Indian and the horse.
Delano made a trip into Navajo country and came to know something of the customs and rich heritage of that remarkable tribe. He was impressed with the stoic dignity of their cultural pursuits, their quiet grace. The vibrant and dramatic color of the Arizona sky and cathedral-like canyons served as perfect settings for these romantic, brightly-clad Nomads of the Desert.
Since 1940, when he painted "Navajo Shepherdess," Gerard Curtis Delano has become the Painter of the Navajo. During the past twenty-five years, he has produced hundreds of masterful portrayals in oils and water color-all radiating with spectacular effect the beauty that is Navajo and Navajoland.
Leading galleries throughout the country eagerly await periodic delivery of new "Delano's" from the Denver studio; their stock of subjects diminishes as rapidly as the dedicated artist can turn them out. Some of these works, major endeavors, are valued in the $10,000 bracket and as sales increase, so does the gratitude and tithing of the man who produces them.
Visitors to his studio sometimes ask, "Mr. Delano, do you paint on order or on speculation?"
"Neither," he replies. "I paint on faith. I love my work and am completely at peace in doing it. I am happy in knowing that whatever I do, I am able to do because God's hand is on my shoulder. And that is the truth, for I have a deep feeling that each finished painting will give real pleasure to most of those who see it, that someone will love it enough to buy it, and that God will supply me with all material needs."
This, in essence, is what goes to make up the heart and soul of this towering American artist. He is gifted with rare skill in the handling of his pigment and brush; he has a keenness of insight to the character, mood and spirit of his chosen subject; and even more important than these two essential qualifications, he has a third powerful force working in his behalf. He has Faith.
View high resolution images of works by Gerard Curtis Delano when available.