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A Painter's Life


By Ernesto Mayans

Hardcover: 210 pages

10"x10" 88 b+w illustrations / 79 color plates





"Painting and living were for Arthur Haddock, languages and meanings he contemplated in a reclusive and shy existence, guided only by his feelings. He understood art as self-creation, a diary on canvas which recorded the cycles of his psyche. The act of painting was a private transaction.


To keep it that way, he decided early on not to depend on the sale of his art for support. To make a living he worked for thirty years as a railroad man. The night ticket and baggage clerk at the Stockton Santa Fe Depot was a job he despised..."

This beautifully designed and illustrated biography of American landscape painter Arthur Haddock (1865-1980) may make the artist one of those “discoveries,” or “reappraisals” that the art world, especially its dealers, just loves. And if Haddock’s reputation as a painter brings him newfound acclaim, it will be especially ironic since during his lifetime this very intense and private man cared little for such rewards.


Biographer Ernesto Mayans has written a thoughtful and well-researched account of Haddock’s life and painting, both of which had their origins in the valleys and mountains of his native California. Raised in a rural town, his affection for the land came early, and it endured. He was an informal student and lifetime friend of Maynard Dixon, and had little additional formal training. Indeed, the hard circumstances of his life required him to make a living for thirty years as a night ticket and baggage clerk at the Santa Fe depot in Stockton, California. Haddock’s intense and private personality is carefully delineated in the concise biography that takes up the first two-thirds of the book. The author discusses Haddock’s life in terms of various periods or themes, through which the artist’s work evolved – from it’s beginning in the landscapes of the California foothills, through industrial scenes near Stockton, California, to the watercolors of the last ten or fifteen years of his life. With careful description and many reproductions of Haddocks work, the author discusses the events of the painter’s life – especially his emotional interior one, which was often mirrored in his paintings – reconstructing them from his conversation with Haddock the year before he died.



Although Haddock exhibited extensively for twenty years or so in museum shows in California, he never achieved a significant reputation. In 1947, he relocated to New Mexico and withdrew into a period of solitude and mental anguish. His paintings of this time were small – his biographer refers to them as “shoe-box” size. After completing about two hundred of these “shoe-box” size works, Haddock started to paint with watercolors and remained with that medium for the rest of his life. The late watercolors, dating from the 1970s consisted of a series of “interior” landscapes drawn from recollections of his early life in California. These powerful works are very sparse, almost abstract, and may be the paintings for which he will be most admired and remembered. The biography concludes with a section of thirty-eight full page color reproductions with descriptive captions. The diligent, unglamorous – indeed uneventful – life led by the artist stands in stark contrast to so much of today’s art world, where monetary rewards and critical hoopla have all but obscured the reason for creating art: the communication of a personal truth that, if the artist is truly gifted, takes on a universal significance. So, quite apart from the beauty and technique of the paintings themselves, this biography may prove an inspiration to many landscape artists who, like Haddock, have never painted what was fashionable in the eyes of the market and were rewarded with obscurity. This biography attests to the fact that such obscurity may be of a limited duration.


— Diane Casella Hines

Review in American Artist Magazine

Reprinted with permission for BPI Communications, Inc. Copyright © BPI Communications, Inc. All rights reserved

Kayenta, 1976

Oil on Board 17 x 23 in

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