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R. Brownell McGrew

By the Canyon, Oil, 20" x 24"©

Hasti in Cowshirt, Oil on panel, 18 x 24 inches©


Known for highly realistic Indian portraits with rich skin tones as well as Southwest and California desert landscape paintings, Brownell McGrew showed early art talent in his home town and birth place of Columbus, Ohio.

He moved to California with his family when he was a child and enrolled at the Otis Art Institute, studying with Ralph Holmes. Although he preferred portrait painting, he won recognition for landscapes and was so proficient technically that he spent his last year at Otis teaching. He worked as a commercial artist for M.G.M. and Columbia studios and then discovered a love for desert painting. He was also challenged by portrait painting, especially Navajo and Hopi Indians from Arizona and New Mexico.

His goal was to have a painting look wet after it was completed, and to achieve this effect, he mixed his colors to get a luminosity by mixing oil paint, linseed oil, and turpentine, but he never used glaze or lacquer.

Ultimately he settled in La Quinta, California, from where he and his wife and daughters as well as other artists including Jimmy Swinnerton and Burt Proctor, took painting-camping trips together.







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Navarro College, Corsicana, Texas. Site last updated January 2004.