Western Perspectives: The Art of Howard Post

Western Perspectives: The Art of Howard Post

By Johanna M. Blume, curator of Western art, history and culture

Old Friends
Howard Post
Old Friends, 2010
Oil on canvas
24 x 48 inches
Loan courtesy of Terry Oertli

For more than 40 years, Howard Post has been a distinctive voice in the world of Western art. His “ranchscapes” highlight the interconnectedness of land, animals and people in the American West, a world he knows well from his lifetime spent there. His vision of the West is born not only of personal experiences, but also out of careful study and practice and engagement with the broad world of American art. Post’s paintings are immediately recognizable: He uses strong lines and shapes and bold colors, exploring and delighting in more abstract artistic concepts.

A special exhibit of the work of Post, the 2017 Quest for the West® Artist of Distinction, is now on view at the Eiteljorg.

Born in 1948 in Tucson, Ariz., Post grew up on and around ranches, working with horses and cattle. With the encouragement of his mother, he started taking art classes. A few years later, Post began competing in rodeos. Like his art, rodeo has been an important part of Post’s life, and he continues to compete to this day. The rodeo arena often provides inspiration for his painting.

Post studied at the University of Arizona, competed on the university’s rodeo team, earned his degree in 1972 and began a career in illustration. While teaching at the university level and pursuing a Master’s of Fine Arts, Post began to develop his signature aesthetic. A professor encouraged him to abandon his preconceptions about art and instead paint what he knew from his own personal experience. This emphasis on painting from personal experience forms the foundation of Post’s body of work.

The Side Door
Howard Post
The Side Door, 2014
Oil on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Loan courtesy
30 x 30 inches
Loan courtesy of Altamira Fine Art

Post names artists Wayne Thiebaud, Edward Hopper and Grant Wood as influences on his art, particularly in their painting the everyday and seemingly mundane aspects of life. Like them, Post looks to draw inspiration from his lived experience and the world around him. However, subject matter is secondary to the interplay of light and shadow, shape, and color. He finds inspiration in the Arizona landscape around his home, and in his travels around the West and the world.

Another artist Howard Post admires is musician and songwriter Paul Simon. Post admires Simon’s ability to reinvent himself over the years and his ever-expanding repertoire. These things are true of Post, too: He often returns to familiar subjects such as horses and corrals, but his adventurous color palettes and constantly evolving compositions breathe life into each canvas. The differences in Post’s paintings over the years can be subtle, but cumulatively they show growth that stems from eager and joyful experimentation with art.

2017Quest_Howard Post Artist of Distinction
Artist Howard Post, right, and his wife Marilyn Post attended the 2017 Quest for the West® Art Show and Sale at the Eiteljorg, where Howard Post received the Quest Artist of Distinction award. His oil painting Double Yellow is seen here.

Special exhibit of the Quest for the West® Artist of Distinction
Gerald and Dorit Paul Gallery


This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Storyteller magazine.