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Contributed by Arizona Capitol Museum
About the Artist
Lon Megarge was born in Philadelphia in 1883. He changed the spelling of his last name to Megargee and the story of his past while he made his way westward into the Arizona Territory around 1896. Megargee was one of the first cowboy artists. He studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and later at the Los Angeles School of Art and Design.
Although he was successful as an artist, Megargee's wild cowboy lifestyle usually led him to financial instability. His success in art was almost always countered with bankruptcy and pleas to friends and supporters for more money. He was described as an "incurable romantic," and married at least seven times. Although personal problems would always plague him, Lon Megargee was always a successful painter throughout his life. He is well-known for creating iconic images such as the Stetson logo and A-1 beer posters, as well as his collection of paintings commissioned by the State of Arizona.
Lon Megargee always felt that Arizona was his true home; near the end of his life, he claimed Tombstone as his birthplace. George W. P. Hunt, the first Governor of the State of Arizona and Megargee's personal friend, would eventually call Megargee "a native Arizonan who has passed his life in the deserts and mountains of our state." Megargee's strong connection with Arizona reveals itself through his paintings of the wildness and strength of Arizona.
About the Collections
Arizona State Capitol Paintings, 1913-1914
Arizona became the 48th state on February 14th, 1912. Megargee was commissioned by the state to paint fifteen large canvases which were installed in the State Capitol building. These paintings portray early Arizona, encompassing landscapes, natural wonders, the customs of Native Americans, historic buildings, and the life of early settlers. The "Five Cs" of Arizona's economy (cattle, citrus, climate, copper and cotton) are represented in many of these paintings. The original paintings are still displayed in the Arizona State Capitol today.
Art in the Great Depression, 1934
The Public Works of Art Project commissioned Megargee to produce three large paintings for the State Capitol. Each painting is of a single figure: The Indian, The Farmer, and Father Kino. These three paintings feature striking colors and inspirational historic figures.
A-1 Beer Paintings for the Arizona Brewing Company, 1948-1951
In the 1940's, major breweries across the county began partnering with artists to produce advertisements. The Arizona Brewing Company partnered with Megargee beginning in 1948 to create iconic images for A-1 beer. These paintings were sometimes humorous, such as the wild female rancher portrayed in The Dude, the barber shaving an outlaw in Black Bart and the singing barbers in The Quartet. Cowboy's Dream is the most romantic and well-known of the A-1 paintings; over 20,000 prints were made, and Megargee repainted it several times throughout his life. Margarita, which shows a woman smoking a cigarette with a beer in front of her, was never reproduced.
Some of Megargee's personal correspondence is included in this collection.