Featured in: Western Traditions

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The university of life attracts some of the world's most devoted art students. John Farnsworth has surely earned a handful of doctorates in that demanding

Rather than conform to the mold of a limited curriculum, he has given himself an
independent and far-reaching art education that is refreshingly free of competitive dogma. "I don't believe that any one school or period renders all others irrelevant," he says.

"The only important thing is whether an artist of any era was true to his own vision, and how well he was able to realize it."

A genuine individualist, Farnsworth has kept his mind open to pivotal experiences, and has seized them and made them his own. He was just nine years old when his mother took him on vacation to Taos, New Mexico.
He kept disappearing, and she would always find him standing spellbound in a gallery they had just walked by. He realized at that moment in time that he was an artist. After he graduated from high school and completed his military service, he taught himself to paint and got his art career going. Like many another aspiring youngster, he enrolled in the Famous Artists Schools correspondence course, which stressed one central rule:
"You learn to paint by painting. You learn to draw by drawing." Farnsworth got the message and hung up the phone.

Thus began a lifetime of intensive study ranging over the whole of art history. In France, he visited the caves at Lascaux, viewed the magnificent prehistoric paintings, and once again experienced a profound change in his thinking. "Everything done since," he says, "seemed to me to be merely vain strivings."
With his wife, Thea Swengel, he has operated galleries in Taos and Santa Fe.
He teaches oil, watercolor, and pastel, as well as photography, in workshops from Mexico to, France, Spain and Peru as well as Canyon de Chelly in Arizona.
Farnsworth's art has never gotten stuck in one place. He paints whatever in the world interests him, and his interests constantly renew themselves. His renowned horse paintings express ever-evolving perceptions and a profoundly free spirit.
By experimenting with a limited palette and unorthodox cropping, among other
innovations, he continually breaks new ground in composition, perspective, and color.
He is truly a crossover artist, bridging the gap between traditional and contemporary Western art. Varied though his paintings are, they are instantly recognizable as Farnsworth's own. Behind every canvas is a sharp intellect, a ready sense of humor, and a world view based in equal parts on tireless observation, imagination, and work.

Suzanne Deatz
Artists of the American West