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Ace Powell: Diamond of the West

December 1 - December 23, 2011

Ace Powell
1912-1978
Asa Lynn Powell was born on April 3, 1912, in Tularosa, New Mexico.  He spent his boyhood in Apgar Village, inside Glacier National Park.  Powell was 21 years old when he worked on the Bar-X6 Ranch on Duck Lake out of Babb, Montana. He managed more than a 1,000 horses for Glacier National Park concessions.

Charles Marion Russell, the legendary cowboy artist, had a large influence in Powell’s development as an artist. At age ten Powell copied one of Russell's paintings down to the famous trademark signature, the buffalo skull. Joe De Yong, Russell's protégé saw the copy and was impressed, except that he suggested the young Powell have his own 'brand'. The Ace of Diamonds trademark signature was born, and it also became his nickname. He became a painter of western action scenes, wild animals, and Indian figures in realistic style and in the tradition of Charles Russell. He was prolific, creating between 12,000 and 15,000 paintings and sculptures. He considered oil to be his best medium although he loved sculpting in terra cotta, stone, and wood. He also was skilled at etching.

His life has involved many changes of location and personal circumstance, much of it due to his alcoholism, which he finally overcame. Eventually he settled in Kalispell. After his first wife died when he was 29, he was briefly in the Army, worked in a defense plant, and was in the plastic figurine business in Yakima, Washington. His partner ran off with his second wife, obviously terminating their business arrangement.

He returned to Glacier National Park for six years with his young son and then at age 40 enrolled in the University of Montana on the G.I. Bill. But, he disliked that abstract art was being promoted, so he quit and took the Famous Artists correspondence course, which really helped him down the path that established his art career. In 1952, he married artist Nancy McLaughlin, and in Hungry Horse, Montana they successfully operated a gallery, but it burned to the ground in 1964. They divorced, and in 1965, he married Thelma Conner.

 

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