SYNOPSIS: Joseph Franklin De Yong was a cowboy artist, protégé of Charles Marion Russell (Montana’s cowboy artist), and an historical consultant on western films. Dan Gagliasso wrote, “While director John Ford made extensive use of Frederic Remington’s art in his western films, it was the Russell ‘look,’ kept alive by De Yong’s costume designs, scenic sketch art, and historical advice, that influenced the form and feel of such classic Westerns as The Plainsman (1937), Union Pacific (1939), Buffalo Bill (1944), Red River (1948), and Shane (1953).” The authentic work De Yong did in film continues to influence the way costume and set designs for western movies are conceived, as evidenced in classics like Dances with Wolves and Unforgiven, and the mini-series Lonesome Dove.
Joe De Yong: A Life in the West (Alamar Media/September 2018) by William Reynolds is an in-depth biography that takes readers on an incredible journey exploring western culture of the early 20th Century through the story of one unsung cowboy. Reynolds tells De Yong’s story by including photographs of sketches, paintings and documents culled from private collectors as well as from the permanent collections of major western museums.
De Yong’s life was one of challenges, including overcoming cerebral meningitis in 1913 that left him totally deaf. Never one for self-pity, De Yong went on to become the only protégé of his artistic hero Charles M. Russell. He would take the skills he learned and make a life in the movie business working with Cecil B. DeMille and many others. The early films De Yong worked on created a pathway to authentic depictions that – while it was never loudly recognized – was utilized by many in the industry.
Over ten years of research, Reynolds reveals the life of a relatively unknown artist/illustrator who started out to be “just a cowboy” who turns out was quite a “mover and shaker” touching the lives of so many in the western art world of the 1920s through the late 1960s.
This long-awaited, in-depth, biography a treat for any western art fan or disciple of Charles M. Russell.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
William Reynolds is an award-winning Western journalist and publisher who as worked in the Western industry for over 35 years. He is the author of several books on Western art and culture including The Faraway Horses with Buck Brannaman, The Cowboy Hat Book with master hatter Ritch Rand, and The Art of The Western Saddle. Reynolds is an active member of the Western Writers of America, Los Rancheros Visitadores, as well as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum and former board member of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, and the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum. For more information about him visit his website, http://www.WCReynolds.com.
MY THOUGHTS: This book is absolutely amazing! The level of research and deciation that William Reynolds has given to this work is staggering. From page 1, readers can feel the passion that he had for this project. When an author believes this strong in his work, it’s contagious. You love it because the author loves it.
I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t familiar with Mr. De Yong prior to this work. Now, I can honestly say that I feel as if I really know him. As a homeschooler, I love biographies of often overlooked yet amazing individuals. Biographies such as this one give children a chance to explore the world how it once was and those who made it what it is today. Authors such as Mr. Reynolds give readers an opportunity to explore, grow, and extend their education beyond textbooks.
As opposed to many mainstream biographies, Joe De Yong’s contains a vast amount of images; in fact, over 500! That’s tremendous! If you happen to have a reluctant reader who is also a fan of westerns or cowboys, then you need to pick this book up. In addition to being a biography, readers are also treated to American History, western culture, and, of course, art.
It really is worth a read and it is a profound educational piece. Well-done! I give it 5 stars!