Duane Bryers was one of America’s most gifted artists and had been for the better part of his ninety-four years on this planet. He earned a living as a commercial illustrator until his early fifties and gradually found himself garnering a nice amount of attention as a fine artists who specialized in western theme paintings.
He was born in the upper peninsula of Michigan in 1911 on a farm with his three brothers and two sisters. At the age of twelve his family moved to a village in Northern Minnesota called Virginia (five miles north of Duluc according to Duane) where he lived until he left in 1939.
There is a lot of bunkhouse and cowlot character in the paintings of Duane Bryers. The cowboys in Bryer’s painting are not the Zane Grey variety; they’re the hard-bitten, bow-legged kind that can be found in ranch country throughout the West. Bryers lived on a ranch near Tucson, Arizona. He had plenty of opportunity to get next to what he painted. His work proves that he paid close attention to his subjects.
He had a knack for getting the crease just right in an old sweat-stained Stetson, and other little details like that which cowboys and ranch people appreciate in good art. It’s one thing for a picture to be painted well, but it sure adds plenty to it when the artist has paid attention to the authenticity of his subject matter. People who have spent any time around horses and cattle will find something they like in the paintings of Duane Bryers.
Duane Bryers was America’s top western calendar artist – his calendars were published by Brown & Bigelow, number one in the calendar field.
He was an artist in residence on the huge Empirita Ranch in southern Arizona. The magnificent beauty of this environment provided him with unlimited inspiration for his highly successful paintings – which were purchased immediately by eager collectors.
He exhibited yearly at the prestigious National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City and is included in their permanent collection. He also exhibited with the annual Western Heritage Show in Houston – an invitational affair which included the West’s finest painters.
During his successful career, Mr. Bryers had art studios in Chicago and New York. Because of the demand for his work, he never had enough paintings available for one man shows. Duane Bryers passed away on May 30th, 2012 in Tucson, Arizona.
Source: Ro Gallery
Artist: Duane BryersDescription: Oil (1979) | Image Size: 16”h x 24”w; Framed Size: 26 ¼”h x 34 ½”w
Duane Bryers was a storied artist like so many of his colleagues and predecessors. Odd jobs to make ends meet, a stint with a circus, a muralist, military service and eventually success as a commercial artist and a nationally syndicated comic strip called “Corky”. However, he was unique in that his conceptualization in the mid-1950’s of a “plumpy” girl named “Hilda” which put him front and center in the world of pin-up girl calendars. Following the publication of Zaftig: The Case for Curves, Duane proudly and rightfully shared that he was the only living, contemporary artist whose work was included in the book along with Renoir, Reuben, Degas and Rembrandt. More of that deliciousness can be seen at Duane Bryers’ wonderful “Hilda” on Facebook and @hildapinup on Instagram.
Duane’s passion for western art firmly took root after he relocated to Southern Arizona in 1958. His work has been featured at the Western Heritage Show in Houston, as a member of NAWA and at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame where he was awarded a Trustees Gold Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Western Art. Later Duane and six other artists became known as “The Tucson 7” (Duane Bryers, Harley Brown, Howard Terpning, Don Crowley, Ken Riley, Bob Kuhn and Tom Hill). Though they began their respective careers as illustrators and crossed paths with one another at various times throughout their professional lives, once all became Tucson residents it was their kindred spirits that brought them together. Their mission was simple: Fun … Fun … Fun! Yes, sometimes the boys will just be boys. The group periodically exhibited their work together as a collective, but the seeds of friendship, mutual respect and admiration was their strongest bond. When next in Tucson, a re-creation of Duane’s studio can be seen at the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block.