Marjorie Reed

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Reed's first published biography is now available

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Marjorie Reed biography by Gary Fillmore

Marjorie Reed is best known for her paintings of the stage stations and scenes along the Butterfield Overland Stage Route. Born in Springfield, Illinois in 1915, Reed’s family moved to southern California when she was twelve. Shortly afterward her father, Walter Reed, began working as a free lance graphic artist for Mission Engraving and Offset, a commercial art firm in downtown Los Angeles.

According to Ed Ainsworth in "The Cowboy and Art," young Marjorie's "inner urge" was so strong she would sometimes walk eighteen miles just to sit on a corral fence and sketch the horses. Although the claim may seem exaggerated, it is known Reed possessed a strong will and was not afraid to travel long distances on foot to find inspiration. In her early teens she would disappear for several days at a time in the San Gabriel Mountains to sketch the wildlife. The excursions frequently took her from her home in Glendale deep into the Arroyo Seco, sometimes as far as Switzer Falls.

Her only companion was Boy, a large Malamute. "I didn't need much to get by” Reed recounted many years later, “Just a couple apples and a fig. Boy would catch his own food." Although the episodes caused her parents much worry and aggravation, this innate drive combined with her father’s tutelage helped Reed to hone her natural talent into a marketable skill at a very young age.

Reed started working alongside her father as a free lance artist at Mission Graphics when she was fourteen, drawing and painting commercial work for several major companies including The Popsicle Company, Standard Oil, and Goodyear Tire and Rubber. During the summer between her junior and senior year in high school she designed a complete line of greeting cards for "one of the largest business concerns in the nation."

After graduating from Glendale High School Reed briefly attended the Chouinard Art Institute. But her most important formal training came several years later, with well known California landscape artist Jack Wilkenson Smith.

Starting in 1935, Reed initially walked the sixteen mile round trip from her home in Highland Park to Smith's residence on Champion Place in Alhambra, also known as "Artists Alley." The daily hike soon became too arduous and she began roller skating the distance to and from her lessons. When a near death collision with an automobile prompted the Smith's to invite the young apprentice to live with them, Reed became the youngest member of Artists Alley.

The next two years provided a good education for reasons beyond her studies with Smith. Artists Alley was a Western artist's Mecca at the time.  Nearby residents included Clyde Forsythe, Eli Harvey, Norman Rockwell and Frank Tenney Johnson.

Reed credited Smith with encouraging her to roam the California countryside for inspiration. The two made numerous sketching trips in the southern California foothills and canyons, frequently accompanied by well known landscape artist Hanson Puthuff.

During one trip she came in contact with Captain William Banning. Banning had been a stage coach driver for his father Phineas Banning, the owner of a southern California shipping empire. Captivated by Banning’s knowledge of stage coaches and horse teams, this event, along with her first visit to the Campbell Ranch near Vallecito, California, led Reed to embark on a project that would in time represent the pinnacle achievement of her artistic legacy.

Reed first visited the Campbell Ranch in April of 1938 at the recommendation of John Hilton. Hilton believed the ranch's ambiance would provide a flavorful setting for her work. Owner Everett Campbell had recently finished overseeing a complete restoration of the Vallecito Butterfield station. Reed recalled nearly fifty years later how impressed she was with Campbell’s handiwork, commenting that he was an artist in his own right. She also became intrigued with the history of the route and “what a colorful project” the Butterfield Overland Stage had been. Her short three day stay on the ranch, combined with meeting William Banning, helped to create Reed's lifelong artistic mission.

Tracing the Butterfield Overland stage route through California, she created a series of twenty paintings, each one a representation of the various stage stations or other well known locations along the route. For authenticity, and to capture the essence of the route, Reed camped out near many of the stage stations she painted.

The series was finished in 1958 while Reed was living in Julian, California. Three years later, nineteen of the twenty paintings were purchased by James S. Copley, owner and publisher of the San Diego Union Tribune. The success of the California collection led to a series of subsequent projects, portraying the Butterfield route from California eastward all the way to it’s origin in Tipton, Missouri. She completed a set of paintings for every state along the way: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and finally Missouri. The final canvas was finished in 1982, over forty years after her stagecoach ride with William Banning and her first stay at the Campbell Ranch.





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Marjorie Reed Holdin Herd

Holdin Herd  Ink on paper 4 x 6 Circa 1929


Marjorie Reed and Walter Reed Lake Michigan 1917

Marjorie Reed and Walter Reed-Lake Michigan 1917

Marjorie Reed Old Santa Paula Stage

Old Santa Paula Stage

20 x 24 Oil on Canvas Circa 1938


Marjorie Reed The Early Pioneers

The Early Pioneers

32 x 38 Oil on Board Circa 1938


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