Artist sketch: Maynard Dixon

Natalia Visante (Wells Fargo History Museum)

Natalia Visante (Wells Fargo History Museum)

Natalia Visante is a museum assistant at the Wells Fargo Museum in Old Town Sacramento. She completed undergraduate work in art studio and anthropology, and has a Master’s degree in tourism and recreation management. Her work, she writes, is guided by a deep appreciation for art and cultures. That alone makes us happy to welcome her to Guided by History, but this glance at Maynard Dixon “locks her in”! (CR)

The Sacramento Wells Fargo Museum receives many patrons that are lured by their fascination of the Pony Express and its history. A particularly popular painting, adorning one of the walls in the museum, depicts a Pony Express rider delivering the news of Abraham Lincoln’s election. Although this painting is a replica, it stands as an iconic and timeless piece.

The painting, “Lincoln Elected,” was commissioned in 1925. It painting portrays a Pony Express rider waving his hat in the air as he rides through Placer County, exclaiming “Lincoln elected!” Lincoln’s election was a pivotal moment in American history, but it was also occasion of a new record for the Pony Express, which delivered the message in seven days and seventeen hours.

Maynard Dixon (1875-1946), a California native born in Fresno, was a tonalist painter and a pioneer of western American art. He is well known for his portrayal of the American frontier, which depicts western landscapes prior to major urban development, and often highlights cowboys. Dixon was married to the famous photographer Dorothea Lange; both Lange and Dixon had successful careers in their chosen medium prior to their marriage.

Maynard Dixon, "Lincoln elected!"Dixon’s work was frequently in the “Overland Monthly,” a magazine of the West that featured many notable artists and writers. Dixon’s work at the “Overland,” combined with his fine art, gained him his notoriety and caught the attention of Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo first commissioned Dixon to design a medal and bronze coin in 1923, to commemorate the Pony Express re-enactment race. That race still takes place today; every summer, the race stops or starts in Sacramento, Calif., the western terminus of the Pony Express. Today, the medal, coin and painting are all proudly displayed at the Old Sacramento Wells Fargo Museum.

Wells Fargo commissioned Dixon to paint “Lincoln elected!” soon after. The original hangs in the Wells Fargo History Museum in San Francisco. There is another Dixon in our Minneapolis History Museum.

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