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Gerald Cassidy

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Gerald Cassidy

1879 - 1934

Gerald Cassidy, known for his subjects of the Southwest including Indian portraits and for his lithography, was born in Covington, KY., and grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. He studied at the mechanic Institute in Cincinnati and with Frank Duveneck at the Cincinnati Art Academy. He worked as an Art Director at a lithography firm in New York City and during this time, studied briefly at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League. Diagnosed with tuberculosis at age 20, Cassidy went to a sanitarium in New Mexico, a move that introduced him to life in the West. He first earned his living by painting portraits of Indians and scenes of the Southwest that were intended to be reproduced on postcards. When his health got better, he moved to Denver and there established his reputation as a lithographer by doing work that was used for magazine illustrations, murals, and ads. In 1912, he married the sculptor and writer Ina Sizer Davis, who became a noted author of numerous articles on New Mexico art colonies. The couple settled in Santa Fe where Cassidy began a project to document the culture of Pueblo Indians.

The commission to do this work came from Edgar L Hewitt, Director of the School of American Archaeology. Hewitt regarded the life of the Indians as the counterpoint to the materialism of white civilization. Cassidy became so committed to this project that he decorated his home with altar paintings from the ruined Nambe mission church.

In Santa Fe, he was only the third artist of English origin to establish residency there. During this time, he changed his signature from Gerald Ira Diamond Cassidy to Gerald Cassidy, placing the Tewa Indian sun symbol (symbol of circle with four lines) between his first and last name. He also painted many landscapes and large historic murals for commercial buildings including the Indian Arts Building. A highlight of his career occurred in 1915 when he was awarded the Grand Prize and Gold Medal for his murals in the Indian Arts Building, at the Panama-California International Exposition, San Diego, California

Nineteen years later, in 1934, Cassidy met an untimely death from lead poisoning while working on a mural for the Federal Building in Santa Fe.

Gerald Cassidy was a fiercely driven artist of the American West whose body of work is an earnest, humble and skillful rendering of the peoples and locales of the southwestern desert.

Born in Kentucky and raised in Cleveland, Gerald Cassidy received his training from Frank Duveneck at the Institute of Mechanical Arts, the teacher of an entire generation of artists including Joseph Henry Sharp and Walter Ufer. Gerald Cassidy continued his studies at the Arts Students League in New York and was an engraving firms art director by the time he was twenty years old.

At the same moment that Gerald Cassidy was first finding success he contracted a life-threatening case of pneumonia and was moved to a sanitarium in Albuquerque. It was here that he first saw the people and places of the southwest, the subject matter that he would dedicate his entire lifeís work to after this point. His first work using Indian and Western subjects was heavily art deco, and a deco edge would remain in his work even as it developed into a more solidly realist style.

Gerald Cassidy moved from Albuquerque to Denver to work as a commercial artist, but it didnít last; Gerald Cassidy returned to Santa Fe in 1912, becoming a founding member of the Santa Fe Artistsí Colony. He painted the Navajo in works that were primarily transferred to postcards or posters. At the 1915 Panama-California International Exposition in San Diego Cassidy was awarded the gold medal for his murals, the largest award he would win in his lifetime.

During the mid-twenties Gerald Cassidy traveled in Europe, and his pieces were well thought of by the European public. Pablo Picasso chose one of Cassidyís pieces from a show for inclusion in the Luxembourg Palace in Paris. In 1934, while painting a mural for the WPA, Gerald Cassidy contracted lead poisoning and died. It was a terrible, abrupt ending to an artist who had all of the prerequisite skills to become one of the dominant painters of the West in America.

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