Guide to the William F. Reese Collection
William F. Reese Collection,
Location: 0393-0408; 0713
Accession #: RC2006.077
This is an incomplete guide. A final guide will be made available when processing of this collection is complete.
William F. Reese was born in Pierre, South Dakota on July 10, 1938, the eldest of five children. His family moved to Seattle, Washington when he was two-years old and later to an apple ranch in Central Washington. Growing up in rural Washington he was exposed to horses and cattle, which instilled a lifelong appreciation and love of animals that is evident in much of his work. Bill started drawing when he was three or four-years old. The Charles Lederer book Drawing Made Easy, given to him by his grandmother, served as his first exposure to art instruction. At thirteen his parents gave him a set of artist's oil paints to further explore his burgeoning interest in art.
After high school Reese was briefly enrolled in the art program at Washington State University. He later worked on a dam construction project near Wenatchee, Washington, and, after a short time as a sign painter in Los Angeles, California, he worked as a sign painter in Eugene, Oregon. At this point he married his wife Frances, whom he met while working in Wenatchee. The couple would have two children, Dean and Shelly. Later they moved back to Los Angeles, where he worked at sign painting during the day and fine art painting at night. During this period he became very proficient in sign painting and attended a class in pictorial painting at Los Angeles Trade Tech. The new degree of self-expression that was possible in pictorial sign painting further whetted his appetite to fully express his art, which led to his enrollment at the Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles.
A decade of sign painting by day and easel painting by night had passed, the Reese family had moved back to the Seattle area, and Reese decided that a career in painting, rather than just sign painting, was what he desired. Fran and Bill started to save a nest egg so he could paint full-time in an attempt to make fine art painting his career. The majority of the nest egg had been saved over a two-year period when, in 1970, near tragedy struck. Reese sustained a ruptured appendix that developed into peritonitis and almost ended his life. This experience changed his outlook on life and he resolved to begin fine art painting full-time as soon as he recovered from his illness, only taking outside work when the money ran out. At this time Reese also developed a friendship with Gene Lynn, a Washington contracting entrepreneur whom he met through his father. Purchases and commissions from Lynn helped Reese through some lean years, although Reese and his wife turned down an offer by Lynn to become Reese's art patron and support him full-time. Fran assumed the important role of business manager, and her activities in that capacity are well documented in the collection.
In the years since his decision to pursue art as his career Reese has developed into a widely respected artist. He works mostly in oil, but also in watercolor, pastel, sculpture, drawing, etching, and lithography. Reese terms his work as "post-impressionist with a touch of expressionism." He works from live models and in the field, rather than from photographs, relying heavily on personal observation. Reese had his first major exhibition at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle in 1972. His work has since been shown throughout the United States and abroad, including the first exhibition of contemporary western art to be shown in China since it reopened to the West. Reese has had numerous one-man shows and has earned many awards for his work. He has been involved in art education through workshops and demonstrations, which is documented in the collection. Reese's work has been featured in numerous published articles and in an award winning 1984 book written by Mary Balcomb in collaboration with Reese. The publication of this book was made possible, in part, by the financial backing of Gene Lynn, and its writing, design, and publication is well documented in the collection. After painting in the Seattle area for many years, in 1994 Reese restored an historic building in Wenatchee for his gallery and studio where he continues to paint and sculpt.
This collection consists of artists correspondence, letters, tickets, art shows and supplies, automobile and mileage records, bank records, correspondence concerning books, credit, gallery correspondence, insurance records (restricted), painting and bronze sales, medical records (restricted), miscellaneous documents, newspaper and magazines, shipping and film, taxes (restricted), travel, and utilities.
Processing is incomplete at this time.
The William F. Reese Collection is the property of the Donald C. & Elizabeth M. Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Literary right, including copyright, belongs to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, with the exception of copyrighted artwork images and published literary works, which are the property of the respective copyright holders. It is the responsibility of the researcher, and his/her publisher, to obtain publishing permission from individuals pictured, relevant copyright holders, and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
The collection is open for research. It is advisable for researchers to discuss their proposed research with staff prior to visiting the Center.
William F. Reese Collection, Box ##, Folder ##, Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.