Dale Nichols, a man often credited for the activity that inspired the transformation of Tubac into a community with a strong artistic foundation, was born in the small farming town of David City, Nebraska. Nichols is best known for his work as a rural landscape painter and is often classified with other regional landscape artists, including Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton.
Nichols began his artistic career at the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago, later becoming the Carnegie professor of Art at the University of Illinois. In September 1939, Nichols was featured in Time Magazine where the reviewer said, “The subjects he prefers are the prairie landscapes of his youth, usually snowed under.” In 1943, Nichols assumed the position of Art Editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Nichols did not, however, remain rooted in the Midwest. In 1948, Nichols played an influential role in an art exhibition in Tucson, Arizona, presented by the Independent Artists Group. This group later joined the Fine Arts Association in Tucson, which became the catalyst for what is now the Tucson Museum of Art.
It was also in 1948 that Nichols started the Dale Nichols School of Art, also called the Tubac Art School. Nichols believed that Tubac was the perfect place for his art school due to its “interesting history, healthy climate, invigorating ranch life, and accessibility to Mexico.” Nichols is reported to have purchased almost half of the remaining and unoccupied adobe buildings of the old settlement to create classrooms and living quarters for the students. Despite Nichols’ enthusiasm and interest in both art and his students, about a year after the school opened many of his students began to drift away and he closed the school.
Nichols spent the next few years traveling and living with the Navajo Indians, recording their culture in watercolor. After 1954, Nichols pursued different activities: art lectures, attempts to revive the Tubac Art School, and leading expeditions for Brown University to Guatemala where he lived for over 15 years. Nichols died in 1995 in Sedona, Arizona.
Image: Dale Nichols, “Original Poster promoting Dale Nichols School of Art” Permanent Collection
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