Monday, October 22, 2012

Lewis A. Ramsey, Western Artist

Lewis A. Ramsey
Lewis A Ramsey, One of the West’s Leading Artists                
( Information from Encyclopedia of Biography p 427)
 Lewis A. Ramsey was born March 24, 1873 in Bridgeport, Illinois to George Winship and Amanda Jane (Ross) Ramsey. The family originally came from Scotland; the earliest American ancestor of record being Alan Ramsey. He was born in 1750.

George Winship Ramsey, Lewis's father was born September 12, 1837 in Lawrence County and died February 2, 1908 in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He was a farmer by occupation but served as musician in the Union Army during the Civil War. He began his service October 1862 by volunteering for the 130th Ill Regiment being the first company in the state of Illinois tendered to Gov. Gates when Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 men. Col. Nathaniel Niles organized the 130th Regiment at Camp Butler, Il in October 1862 and it was mustered into service on the 25th day of that month.  Mr. Ramsey served until August 15, 1865.
At the age of five, Lewis  began to draw. George Ramsey, his older brother by 10 years, noticed the small boy’s grasp of perspective even with his first drawing of a box of O. N. T. Cotton standing on his mother's sewing machine.  George told Lewis stories of artists, trying always to be realistic and not omitting emphasis on the difficulty of the artists’ path. Lewis learned that if one wanted to succeed in this hardest of professions he would have to work unendingly and often against tremendous obstacles. In the little school he attended at Bridgeport one teacher encouraged him when he drew a picture of the stove in the corner of the room saying, “ Lewis that is remarkable. Keep at it.”  while other teachers at the same school and at times were severe with Lewis and reprimanded him for drawing instead of doing his lessons. When his family moved to Utah, Lewis Ramsey was 12 years old.

Lewis attended Payson City School at Payson, Utah. At 13 he visited for an extended period of time with his brother George who was then married and teaching school in Springfield, Utah.  There Lewis resided with John Hafen, an artist of Swiss extraction, studying with him. At 16 Lewis attended Brigham Young Academy and taught penmanship.  in 1895 he traveled to Boston and attended the Cowles Art School retouching negatives to pay his way. Although he won a scholarship to Julian Academy in Paris, France, he never received it because he had not been in attendance at Cowles the required number of days.
Back once more in Utah, Lewis remained only a short time before taking up studies in Smith's Art School in Chicago.  During his three years of study there he retouched negatives and finished crayon enlargements of the type being so popular.  He helped financially with his sister Emma's voice studies in Berlin and Paris at the same time. Later she repaid him sufficiently to enable him to go to Paris and attend the Academy Julian. For a time he and his sister struggled together in Paris.  He painted portraits to support them. At the Academy he won high honors for his work from 1901 to 1903. Returning to the United States he taught art in the Latter Day Saints University in Salt Lake City for two years and during that time painted portraits of several local people, including the portrait of the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith painted from his  death mask.

Lewis’ painting of Bryce Canyon is said to be the first painting of that location. He also made the first painting of Cedar Breaks packing in on horseback to complete it.  This painting  hung in the Washington office of Stephen Mather, the father of National Parks. For 15 years Mr. Ramsey made an annual trip to Zion Canyon where he painted the desert and canyon scenes for which he became famous. He painted at the Grand Canyon, both the North and South Rims and had an exhibition every year for the last 12 years of his life. Yellowstone National Park was another favorite place of his to paint as well Yosemite Valley and Yosemite National Park.  After 1915 his paintings were almost totally devoted to landscapes.
The Lost City 1937
His son Lewis posed for the boy on the building.
In 1936 Mr. Ramsey took charge of a group of WPA workers at the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles to paint dioramas of Indian life and customs.  One of his works of this period was a painting of the Lost City of Nevada. It hangs in the Boulder Damn State Park; the site of this painting is now  lost, covered by the waters of Mead Lake.

 An energetic worker Mr. Ramsey painted early mornings and late afternoons and was always working on two canvases  at the same time. His landscapes were sunny expressing his disposition. Except for a few weeks of the last three months of his life he painted every day except Sundays.
On October 12, 1904 Lewis A Ramsey married Elizabeth Patterson Brown, daughter of James and Christina Hunter Brown of Evanston, Wyoming. Her father was a blacksmith, later serving as County Clerk ,assistant cashier of the Evanston National Bank and Clerk of Court. Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey became the parents of the following children: Alan, Ralph James,  Ross Brown,  Lewis George, Elizabeth, and  Jean  Christine. Lewis A. Ramsey died May 11, 1941 in Los Angeles.