Joe Neil Beeler
1931 – 2006
Joe Neil Beeler
A founding member of the Cowboy Artists of America, Joe Beeler served as a catalyst in the field of contemporary western art throughout his long career. Born on Christmas day in 1931 in Joplin Missouri, Beeler grew up surrounded by the cowboys, ranchers, and Native Americans that would later inspire his art. With Cherokee ancestry on his father’s side, Beeler spent his summers dancing in powwows in Oklahoma as a teen. Throughout his travels to dance at powwows, Beeler never stopped cataloging, learning, and observing the dress, mannerisms, and customs of everyone he met. Never without his sketchbook, he developed an early appreciation for the distinct cultures of each Native American tribe he met, which later lent his artwork an authenticity that shone through.
After a short stint at junior college, Beeler moved west to Arizona where he worked as a cowboy for some time. Despite his affinity for the work, his hands itched for pen and paintbrush and Beeler returned to Oklahoma in 1950 to study art at the University of Tulsa. Answering the call of duty, Beeler went to Korea in 1953 with the United States Army. Continuing to sketch and study everything around him, he created illustrations for Stars and Stripes while deployed.
Upon returning stateside, Beeler met Sharon McPherson in 1956, and two weeks after their first date he proposed. Beeler completed his B.A. in fine arts at Pittsburg State University in Kansas. Wanting to be closer to the art scene, Beeler moved to Los Angeles and continued his formal artistic training at the Art Center School there. California proved to be an ill-fit for the couple, and they returned to the Oklahoma-Kansas line and lived in a little cabin on Five Mile Creek.
In 1958 Beeler received his first major break when the University of Oklahoma Press hired him to illustrate their various western and historical publications. Just two years later the Gilcrease held a one-man exhibition for Beeler, and in 1961 the Montana Historical Society followed suit. The same year, Beeler moved his family to Sedona, Arizona, where his career truly flourished. In 1965 Beeler founded the Cowboy Artists of America with three of his contemporaries, and later that year he became the first contemporary artist to have a one-man show at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. Proficient in a variety of media, Beeler left an indelible mark on the development and trajectory of western art in America.
Biography from Jackson Hole Art Auction