Gerard Curtis Delano has actually had two successful careers as an artist. His early career he was an illustrator where he was published in several magazines, such as Life Magazine and Western Story Magazine. Later in his life, Delano became an accomplished painter of western scenes. He was born in Marion, Massachusetts in 1890 as the son of a sea captain. His first training was at the Swaine Free School of Design near Marion, and in 1910, he enrolled at the Art Students League in New York City. He went on to study at the Grand Central School of Art under Dean Cornell, Harvey Dunn and N.C. Wyeth. Over the next several years, Delano illustrated numerous magazine covers, drew fashions for women’s magazines, and painted subjects for various calendar companies. He also became an animator of movie cartoons. His humorous sketches appeared in many U.S. and European magazines. He continued working in New York City as a successful commercial artist and illustrator until 1919.
Delano’s first trip to the great American West was to Colorado in 1919, where he worked as a ranch hand. In 1920, at the age of thirty, he built a home and studio at Cataract Creek. While being out west inspired his fine art, he did still travel to New York frequently and continued to do commercial illustration assignments. When the depression hit it became more difficult to find this kind of work. Gerard Curtis Delano moved back to Colorado permanently.
For the next few years, he wrote and sold a series of illustrated articles to Western Story Magazine. The series was a chronology of all the events in the development of the American West, beginning before white settlements and continuing up to modern times. The entire series consisted of 106 drawings that continued to be published until 1940.
Once the series was completed, Gerard Curtis Delano committed himself to being a fine art painter. In 1943, he was able to make his first trip to Arizona and discovered the colorful Navajo Reservation. The landscape and Navajo Indians would be a powerful source of inspiration and change the course of his career. For the next thirty years, he would study and paint their rich cultural heritage and gain a reputation for his use of color, design and strong composition. He was fascinated by the colorful clothing of the Indians against the inspiring canyons of Arizona. He painted scenes of Indians herding sheep and goats, emphasizing subtle coloration and the mystical, contemplative mood. When asked why he painted the Navajo, he was known to have commented, “the Navajo people are a proud and beautiful race of great dignity. It is my idea to show them as I know them. There are few poorer people anywhere, yet it would be difficult to find a happier lot, and I wonder if there is not a lesson in this for all of us.”
Gerard Curtis Delano was among the first Western artists invited to submit paintings to be published on the front cover of Rotogravure section of the Denver Post. From 1947-1973, his works were featured and seen by thousands in the Sunday edition of the Denver Post causing widespread recognition and popularity. Gerard Curtis Delano died in 1972.
Today Gerard Delano’s works can be seen in the following museums:
Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art Museum
Phippen Art Museum
Smithsonian American Art Museum
The Booth Western Art Museum
The Museum of Western Art
The Newark Museum