Dale Nichols

About the Artist

Dale Nichols (1904–1995)

Dale Nichols (1904–1995)

Dale Nichols was an American Regionalist painter and illustrator, who traveled extensively, but always went back to his Nebraska roots for inspiration.

Early Life and Education

Dale Nichols was born in 1904, in David City, Nebraska. His family had a grain and livestock farm, so Nichols spent his childhood doing chores and walking two miles to school. In 1924, at the age of twenty, Nichols was determined to pursue a career as an artist, and moved to Chicago to attend the Chicago Academy of Art. He stayed at the Academy for two months, then attended the Art Institute of Chicago and spent a year in Vienna, studying with graphic artist Joseph Binder.

Career and Family Life

Nichols returned to Chicago in 1930, and spent about fifteen years in the city, working in advertising and gaining a national reputation as a Regionalist artist. He was represented by the MacBeth Gallery in New York from 1930 to 1950, and then by the Grand Central Art Galleries. He replaced Grant Wood as the art editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica, at its Chicago Headquarters, in 1942. Nichols began to travel in the 1940s, moving to Tubac, Arizona, where he bought property and established an art school that failed after a year. He continued to have financial difficulties and roamed around the country throughout the 1940s and 1950s, marrying five times.

In 1960, Nichols moved to Guatemala, married again, a supported himself  by making drawings and rubbings of Mayan sculpture. He wrote books, based on his assertion that the he had unlocked a secret code of ancient Mayan writing and art. Even through his travels, Nichols continued to create paintings of the red barn that he grew up with in Nebraska. The simple, geometric designs that underlie the compositions of his work remain dramatic and appealing. Nichols died, in Sedona, Arizona, in the home of one of his daughters, in 1995, and the age of 91. His work can be found in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Met, the Whitney and other major galleries.

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