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About Ray Eyerly, Oregon’s Master Artist

About Ray Eyerly

About Ray Eyerly – Master Artist

Many people want to know about Ray Eyerly.  Here is what we know:

Raymond Leslie Eyerly was born on August 22, 1894 in Canton, Illinois and died in 1980 in Sisters, Oregon.

The following information was derived from the Salem Art Association:

Ray worked as a janitor to earn art school tuition in Canton, IL. At age 15 he moved to Montana where he worked as a wheat farmer, sheepherder, ranch hand and cowboy. There he met Charlie Russell who showed him how to proportion a horse, a lesson he never forgot. He served in WWI and moved to Salem in 1919. In Oregon, Raymond worked for State Highway Department and as a deep sea fisherman, gold mine superintendent, paint contractor and color technologist. He was co-founder of the Realistic Artist guild of Salem. Only after moving to Sisters in 1962 did Ray become a full-time artist, showing his work at The Gallery in Sisters. In 1971 he became the first artist honored by a resolution in the joint houses of the State Legislature. Governor Tom McCall stated his feelings in the foreword to Eyerly’s biography: There is something special about the personal comment, the individual spirit, the haunting and hidden statement that an artist can capture in paintings and drawings. It is this fiercely personal quality which assures the artist his essential position in the history and life of man.” He created more than 1,000 works in the media of pastel, pen and ink, watercolor and oil. At the time of his death, his paintings sold for $10,000 and are in many private collections. The Oregon Historical Society has four lithographs of his work.

The information below was derived from the Beverley Blodgett book “A Picture or Two” – The Story of Ray Eyerly, 1974

On June 3, 1971, Raymond Eyerly, Oregon’s master artist, received official State recognition with a standing ovation at the Oregon State Legislature and was the first artist in the history of Oregon to be so honored. At that time, recognition had only been presented to a very select few of Oregon’s outstanding citizens.

The Oregon State Legislature recognized him for preserving with his artistic talents much of the tradition of the American West. His fine-line pen and ink portraits of Warm Springs, Klamath and Navajo Indians preserve the image of those peoples for posterity. His oils depict with almost photographic detail the beauty of eastern Oregon, including the juniper, the weathered and abandoned buildings of the desert, the vital and free horses, the sheepherders and prospectors.

The Gallery restaurant in Sisters, Oregon, was an important part of Ray Eyerly’s life. He made regular, daily visits awaited by the solicitous public as well as his friends.

The first museum in the United States to display a Ray Eyerly original in its permanent collection was the Buffalo Bill Historical Center of the Whitney Gallery of Western Art in Cody, Wyoming.

In his lifetime, Ray executed an estimated one thousand pieces of work, including his pastels, pen-and-inks, water colors and oil paintings. An exact estimate of his work is impossible to make, however, as Ray kept no accurate record of his output until he began a number system in 1955. Since that time, three hundred assorted compositions in various media have been numbered. Only two-thirds of that number have been accounted for, as a complete file was not maintained. The rest of the estimated eight hundred works are in museums, private collections or possibly, as in the case of many of his cartoons, destroyed. “Some of them just went over my shoulder here and there and thither and yonder.”