Edward Borein

Edward Borein (1872 – 1945)

John Edward Borein grew up near the California cattle trails and cattle industry. He began sketching at the age of five. The subjects available to him during his childhood–cowboys, vaqueros, longhorn cattle, horses–determined his lifelong interests. While his family encouraged him to pursue art, Borein’s formal education at the San Francisco Art Association Art School lasted one month before he gave it up to become a cowboy. In 1893 Borein worked ranches along the California coast and became a proficient roper and rider. He continued to sketch and found ample subjects in his new life as a cowboy. During the 1890s Borein tried his hand at watercolor, a medium he found somewhat discouraging. The painterly potential of the medium eluded him at first, but he persisted until his last years. On the recommendation of friends, Borein moved to New York in 1907 to immerse himself in the fast-paced illustrators’ world. Perhaps the most significant development during his time in New York was his brief, formal training in etching at the Art Students League. His mastery of this technique ultimately set his life’s work apart from his peers in American Western art. Borein took to etching as few Western artists have. He did not routinely sign or number his etchings, and surviving examples exhibit a variety of signatures and penciled remarques. His mastery of this medium reveals a concern for strong design and rhythmic, eye-catching compositions consistent with his training as an illustrator. Borein returned to California in 1919. From his birth state, his fascination with the Spanish Colonial missions flourished and, if nothing else, distinguished him from other American Western artists. In 1921, at the age of 48, Borein married and moved with his wife to Santa Barbara. There he remained and became a prolific and successful independent artist, managing several studios, teaching at the local art school, and producing innumerable etchings, drawings and watercolors. By the 1930s Borein’s watercolors, sparkling with vivid colors and a mastery of tonal qualities, evidenced his triumph over a medium that had perplexed him years before. Borein’s style actually seems to communicate the sun-drenched aridity of the desert and the open range, the largeness of the landscape and the volatile spark that animates the inhabitants. Warm colors dominate his watercolors, with compositions rarely lacking the high-noon clarity of broad daylight.

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