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Tom Lovell
 
Tom Lovell was born in New York City on February 5, 1909. As a boy, he spent hours with his mother at the Museum of Natural History sketching. He worked on several jobs unrelated to art before enrolling in the College of Fine Arts at New York's Syracuse University. While still working toward his degree, Lovell began working as an illustrator for the popular pulp magazines of the time. He earned a Bachelor in Fine Arts degree from Syracuse in 1931. Lovell met Gloyd Simmons while in college and nicknamed her "Pink" because of the pink smock she wore to art class. They married in 1934 and had two children, David and Deborah.

Lovell said that he was fortunate to earn seven dollars per illustration at a
time when most authors only earned one cent a word. In 1937 Lovell switched to the more "glamorous, sophisticated slick" magazines. During World War II, Lovell served in the U.S. Marines as an illustrator for their publication, Leatherneck Magazine. He illustrated the stories for many popular magazines including National Geographic, Life, Time, Cosmopolitan, Ladies Home Journal, Woman's Home Companion, McCall's, and Colliers. His illustrations sprinkled the pages of the works authored by Edna Ferber, Louis Bromfield, Paul Gallico, and Sinclair Lewis (Jones, p. 70-71).

In 1944, Lovell joined the U.S. Marines, hoping to be assigned as a combat artist. However, he served two years as a staff artist for the Leatherneck Magazine, the U.S. Marine Corporation Publication. Lovell produced several historical paintings including the Marines' fight for Belleau Wood during World War I, Admiral Robert E. Peary, Guadacanal!, and the Battle of Tenaru River. Lovell's painting, Tarawa Landing, is on display at the Marine Corps Historical Center in Washington, D.C. (Jones, p. 71).

Lovell first began using scale models to study the effect of light and
composition for his paintings while researching material for the Tarawa
Landing. He was able to move the models about to observe the lighting and shadows they made. This became a habit which he used throughout his lifetime. He researched the landscape, people, the time period, and other important information by ". . . traveling to sites, making sketches, reading primary sources like journals, logs, and eyewitness accounts" (Jones, p. 68) to have a better idea about an incident he wanted to portray before ever touching a canvas. Friends and family members posed for countless photographs and sketches. Lovell studied these for the components which made up each movement, expression, and costume, along with the angles of light and shadow. Lovell's study of research material about the subjects he chose and his attention to the smallest detail made his paintings so lifelike.

After the war, Lovell returned to illustrating for major magazines, where his career spanned almost 40 years. During which time, he was commissioned to do a series on the Vikings for the National Geographic Society, followed by a series on the Civil War for Life magazine, and a study of the early history of the Mormon Church for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In 1969, Lovell left the world of illustrations and turned his attention to western art when the Abell-Hanger Foundation commissioned him to do a series of paintings depicting the southwest and early oil industry in the Permian Basin of West Texas.

In the 1970s Lovell moved his family from Connecticut to Santa Fe, New Mexico to pursue his first love - - historical art. As Lovell wrote,


  "I had been interested in the American Indian since I was nine years
old . . . That interest never left me, although it was many years before I
could really apply it to my work. When I moved West, it seemed all this
interest and knowledge had come home to roost."While I had no great desire to be a cowboy, I knew the West was a lot more things than just cowboying. There are a lot of artists who know about the cowboy subject matter well, so they do that. I like the idea of going back in
time, so that's what I do." ("Tom Lovell 5/25/88 Draft II").  

Lovell's imagination, research abilities, and artistic skill blend perfectly
in his artwork to tell a story. The subjects Lovell portrayed in his
paintings ranged from ancient to contemporary times. His artwork is a study of human existence and an expression of the emotion tied to an event which actually happened or could have happened. The historical topics Lovell has portrayed range from the ancient Greek athletes and the Vikings, to the Fall of Nicaea and the Battle of Hastings, to the arrival of Admiral Peary at the North Pole, to battles of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and both World Wars, to the vivid images of the Old West and Native Americans.

Throughout his career, Lovell received many honors. He was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 1974. His paintings hang in the United States Capital, the U.S. Maritime Academy, the New Britain Museum, the U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters, the National Geographic Society, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, the Abell-Hanger Foundation, galleries of corporate offices, and private collections. "He was among the founding charter members of the National Academy of Western Art, the forerunner of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame's Prix de West Invitational Exhibition." (VanDeventer, M.J., Prix de West News, May 1998 p.8). And in 1992, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame honored him with its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award " . . . during the National Academy of Western Art Exhibition and praised him for 'capturing the romance and the majesty of the American West' in his paintings." (VanDeventer, p. 8). That same year Lovell was awarded the Robert Lougheed Memorial Award for Traditional Painter of
Western History.

Lovell's love for history and his accomplished skill as a painter blend
together to make him a respected and honored artist. Throughout his life,
students, friends, and colleagues respected his advice, instruction, and
friendship. The public sought his work. Each of Lovell's well-researched
paintings portrays a part of history that romanticizes and preserves an event from an individual's perspective as if you are standing observing the action or were a part of what was happening. His artwork draws the viewer into it, sparking the imagination of what could have happened and how it might have felt to be there.

On June 29, 1997, Tom Lovell was tragically killed in an automobile accident at the age of 88. As he once said, "I'm a lucky man. I've been painting for over 50 years. And I've dreamed my dreams" (VanDeventer, p. 8). His life was well spent, doing what he loved best - - illustrating life and history for others to enjoy. Future generations and enthusiasts of the Old West of all ages will benefit from his knowledge of the subjects he painted and the events he portrayed.

Sources
Jones, Byron B., "Stories of Survival: Tom Lovell" Southwest Art. May 1983, p. 66-83)

Tom Lovell - a Biographical Sketch (1974) Number One in a series of booklets on the twelve leading American Artists whose paintings were selected as 1974 winners of the Franklin Mint Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Western Art.
 
 

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