Quote and Credit

Quote and Credit

William Bixler The World's Most Redundant Painter! 5,000 Old Swimming Hole Works


Artists often "find themselves" and repeat. Having a recognizable style is important to the career of any artist. After all, what's the use of spending money on a painting if when company comes, they don't recognize the work? "Oh THAT? That's just my VLAMINCK." A good example is Susan Rothenberg. By now she's probably done enough horses to fill Ted Turner's stable, which the last time I checked was about 1/3 of Colorado. I always admired Jasper Johns, because anytime he needed a house, he could paint an American Flag. Not to begrudge them...if you do something well, you should keep doing it.

The King of repeated work is certainly one William Allen Bixler. You've never walked into a room and seen a Bixler? Well, maybe you have but don't know it. His most prolific period was his "old swimming hole" period. Between 1912 and 1918 he painted it 5,000 times. Each was 20" x 30" That's right, 3 million square inches of it. The same painting. Over and Over and Over like a wild animal stuck in a cage too small.

Bixler was a poet and liked poetry. So when he read the James Whitcomb Riley poem "The Old Swimming Hole" he went to the spot which inspired it and painted it up. It was one of his first paintings. Why, i'm not sure, as one line in the poem reads "Whare the old divin'-log lays sunk and fergot and I stray down the banks whare the treese ust to be--" Well, you get it, but something struck a nerve in our prolific artist. A friend printed up a picture of the painting and sent it to the poet, who liked it enough to mail back a gift of his collected works to the painter.


Several years later, folks in Indiana decided to raise money to erect a statue of the Hoosier Bard but how to pay for the tribute? School children collected pennies, and for each school which raised a few dollars, Bixler came and painted the Old Swimming Hole in their school. The painting is adequate. You would NOT confuse it with the Eakins swimming hole. A stump in a pond. For each $12.50 raised, a school would receive a painting and a small bust of Riley. More than a million kids contributed.


When the depression hit, kid's pennies were now worth a meal. Bixley went on to publish several books and commenced a career as a speed-painter of sorts...a Chalk Talker! He would bring his easel anyplace which would put him and his wife up for the night. He gave lectures on the Lord and illustrated them with chalk drawings made on the spot with lightning speed. The book shown here, one of my favorite books of all time, was first published in his home state of Indiana in 1932.

Chalk Talk Made Easy by William Allen Bixler, 1932 (later edition 1948) Collection Jim Linderman

7 comments:

  1. It's his blue artist coat (and you know it's blue) that gets me.

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  2. I love the way he floats on the page. The coat is significant. You can see the creases in it from where it was folded. I'll bet he kept a stack of them in the supply cupboard and put on a clean one just for the photo.

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  3. William McDonald William Bixler was my Great grandfather I have several books he used when writing his book with notes he made in them. He was a great artist

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    1. Are you referring to the same William Allen Bixler? Or to William McDonald or William McDonald William Bixler? William Allen Bixler was my grandfather. I'd love to know which of the Bixler children was your grandparent (which would be my aunt or uncle).

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  4. I am William Leroy McDonald Named arter William Bixler My great grandfather my grandfather was Leon Bixler his only son My mother is Doris Bixler of Topeka Kansas

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  5. Where is your William Allen Bixler from? My husbands grandfather was William A Bixler. He was from Pa.

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  6. Not all of the paintings were 20 X 30. My grandmother had one that is now in my parents' house that is 10 X 14. He was her grandfather.

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