As a boy, Will James dreamed of becoming a cowboy. At age 15 he left his home near Montreal, Canada and, a few years later, was working for large and small cattle outfits in the American West. In addition, James attended the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco where he met artists Maynard Dixon and Harold Von Schmidt. James became widely known as “that cowboy who drew pictures.”
Between 1920 and his death at age 50 in 1942, James is said to have written and illustrated more than 24 books and numerous magazine articles. His first novel, “Smoky The Cowhorse,” was published in 1926. It received the prestigious Newbery Medal for children’s literature and was adapted into three Hollywood films.
James’ first-hand knowledge of wild and trained horses, coupled with his experience as a working cowboy, provided him with the insights and understanding of cowboy life unmatched by his peers, past or present.
Will James: Cowboy Artist and Author, an exhibition of James’ paintings, drawings, etchings, books and ephemera, is on view through September 30, 2015 at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West.
The novel “Smoky The Cowhorse,” suitable for children eight through 12 years of age, is available in the museum store.