Considered the leading regionalist of Nebraska artist Dale Nichols grew from the son of a wheat farming couple in southeastern Nebraska to one of the United State’s most prominent and publicized American Scene artist’s of the twentieth century.
Born in 1904 near his family’s farm in David City Nebraska Nichols showed artistic promise from a very early age. With the encouragement of his mother, Edith, young Dale Nichols began drawing and painting scenes of cozy meadows and boats on the ocean as early as the age of three. You can view available paintings from Dale Nichols by viewing our Dale Nichols art section below.
This interest in drawing and painting continued into high school in David City where Nichols created cartoons for the high school newspaper. It is also during his high school years that Nichols learns calligraphy and oil painting from two of his teachers. Miss Monia and Mr. Oscar Alexis After graduating from high school in the early 1920’s Dale Nichols moves from the fields of Nebraska to one the leading American Art Schools of the day, the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, now the Art Institute of Chicago.
However, his tenure at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts would not last long. After only a few months of classes at the Art Institute Nichols decided he could both craft his artistic skill and earn a living by working in design and illustration field. While his time at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts was short he befriended a number of prominent artists and illustrators including Joseph Binder, Carl Werntz, and Maynard Dixon who he would later go on painting trips with and stay close friends for many years.
Over the following fifteen years Dale Nichols would work in a variety of fields within the illustration and design world. During this time Nichols would also marry his first wife, Minnie Lucile Nichols, and have his first child who they named Joan. It is also important to remember that up until this point in the early 1930’s Nichols claims that he had not created a single large-scale oil pointing and only worked on smaller illustrations for advertisements and other small paintings and prints.
Most widely known for his larger oil paintings of bucolic, Midwestern farms covered with a fresh blanket of snow Dale Nichols only began experimenting with this imagery after ten years of working in the illustration field in Chicago working for firms such as Stevens, Sundblom and Stults Advertising Agency, the Chicago Tribune, and his own Dale Nichols and Associates Studio. As the 1930’s progressed Nichols received a quick and powerful response to his work. Only a few years after creating his first “red barn” painting showing a Nebraska farmstead under heavy snow did Nichols garner national interest by winning the William Randolph Hearst Award at the Chicago Art Institute for his painting titled End of the Hunt.
Only a few years after winning this award for End of the Hunt the painting was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art for their collection of American Scene painting, specifically representing the regionalist movement within Nebraska. With a painting of his now hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Nichols gained national attention as a leading regionalist painter along with other Midwestern artists such as John Steuart Curry, Thomas Hart Benton, and Grant Wood.
Dale Nichols string of career milestones continued on when he was invited to become a visiting professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana in the architecture and landscape architecture departments. Simultaneously creating paintings to show at the Macbeth Gallery in New York City. The Macbeth Gallery was know for showing artwork by a variety of cutting edge, leading twentieth century American artists including Robert Henri, Everett Shinn, George Luks, and many other Ashcan School painters.
As if that wasn’t enough, Dale Nichols begins to take annual painting trips to Alaska specifically for the dramatic light and landscapes that Alaska offers. Following in the footsteps of his artistic Rockwell Kent, Nichols travels to Fox Island and creates dozens of drawings and paintings of the native landscape blended with Nebraska imagery that he had originally based his first large-scale paintings off of. The art and artistic style of Rockwell Kent was of particular interest to Nichols. Both Rockwell Kent and subsequently Dale Nichols saw the sun and light as the primary emotional driver in paintings and naturally the source of all life on earth from which everything comes.