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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Frank McCarthy - Action and Movement

As one of the top Western artists, Frank McCarthy is best remembered for his amazing talent to capture the action and movement of the scenes he was painting. His western art focused on the Calvary, cowboys and Indians, and the natural beauty of the surrounding land. The unmatched talent to create the feeling of action in his paintings earned him the title 'The Dean of Western Action Painters'. His career as a western painter began in his hometown of New York, when a western magazine requested an illustration for their cover. McCarthy's paintings reflected the fascination he held for western folklore, and may explain why he moved from New York to Sedona, Arizona.

Frank McCarthy did not start out as a western illustrator and painter. As a young boy he loved art, drawing his favorite cartoons. His talent was recognized by his parents and teachers, and they encouraged him to follow his passion. As a young teenager he studied at the Art Students League of New York and went on to major in illustration at the Pratt Institute. After graduating, he stayed in New York and opened his own business, starting his career as a magazine illustrator in New York City. In his studio, he created illustrations for magazines, paperback books and movie posters. Colliers and Argosy, two leading magazines, were some of his first customers. His early illustrations for paperback covers and magazine advertisements also captured the idea of movement and drama that his western paintings are known for.

McCarthy's remarkable talent did not go unnoticed by the entertainment industry. Movie companies hired him to paint illustrations for action movie and western movie posters. The Dirty Dozen, The Great Escape and The Ten Commandments are just a few movies he was hired to illustrate for. Two James Bond movies, On Her Majesty's Service and You Only Live Twice, were advertised using McCarthy's illustrations. The music industry featured McCarthy's art in 1976 when the Marshall Tucker Band used his painting titled 'The Last Crossing' for the cover of their album, 'Long Hard Ride'. The painting, 'The Last Crossing', depicts a stagecoach crossing a wide creek, besieged by bandits. The desperation of the driver is felt in the wild tilt of the stagecoach as it bounces up the creek bank. Urgency is conveyed through flying manes of the horses, their hooves raised, straining to pull the stagecoach out of the creek. The coach driver is snapping the reins, whistling and calling to the horses, as the bandits are closing in. Action and drama, definitely.

There have been five Frank McCarthy art books published, and his art is sought after by collectors today. He was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 1997.


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