Western art oil paintings
Frank Hagel, “Cree Trapper with Bull Boat,” oil, 30 x 40

Western Art by Frank Hagel > Intent and methodical, he approaches the canvas — or panel — with purpose, imparting in paint his love for Montana and all things Western.

Whether it be an extended experience, a split-second moment, or a historical account met through research, artist Frank Hagel is always ready for his next painting’s subject to reveal itself. When the spark of inspiration hits, Hagel’s methodical process begins, a course that is finely tuned and has consistently yielded breathtaking results.

Western art oil paintings
Frank Hagel, “Topping Out,” oil, 16 x 24

“After I’ve thought about the painting in depth, I start with a small color idea sketch in oil on paper on a small notebook, usually no bigger than 4 x 6 inches,” he recounts. “Then comes gathering needed information for the composition, either drawing or photographing from a model, or finding the appropriate landscape. At this point the drawing is enlarged and transferred to the canvas or panel. The painting begins.”

Western art oil paintings
Frank Hagel, “Gates of the Mountains,” oil, 2017

Hagel’s memorable encounter with Chief Mountain, a sacred spot for the Native American Blackfeet tribe in northwestern Montana, led to the outstanding “Chief Mountain Nocturne,” which captures the towering subject just as darkness falls. “I posed my model on horseback and did a fairly small, 5 x 7-inch oil sketch for color and composition, and began the process of rearranging values and colors to suggest a night scene with the horse guard as the dominant element,” says Hagel.

Indeed, the Blackfeet guard stands as majestically as the mountain beyond, endowing the subject with a stoic strength, confidence, and status. Just beyond the main subject, the viewer finds a small herd of grazing horses before the faint glow of fires within tipis grouped along the horizon. The warm glow of the oranges and reds from the fire adds a brief moment of rest for the eyes amidst a beautiful arrangement of cool greens, whites, purples, and blues.

Frank Hagel, “Chief Mountain Nocturne,” oil, 24 x 36 in. (c) Frank Hagel 2017
Frank Hagel, “Chief Mountain Nocturne,” oil, 24 x 36 in., 2017

“My paintings are almost always inspired by Montana,” the artist writes, “whether landscapes, animals, or humans, they are all familiar to me and interesting in an historical or pictorial sense.” Hagel is one of the preeminent painters of the American West, and his connection with Montana and Western culture runs extremely deep and, to be sure, well beyond his art. “My mother was born in Wyoming, and my father in Idaho — each only a few years after both territories became states,” Hagel says. “I was born in Montana and have spent most of my life here, enjoying and studying all its facets: the scenery, geography, history of its natives, and its subsequent explorers and inhabitants, the weather, historical and everyday happenings, and the general overall feeling. In the course of growing up here and becoming a full-time artist, I experienced the most true of Montana livelihoods: working at my parents’ tannery, logging, ranching, outfitting and guiding hunters, etc. This familiarity also has led me to become a student of all aspects of Montana’s history — doing the research, exploring, reading, and studying the history of the state, with all its interesting events and occurrences. The subject matter is infinite.”

The connection Hagel experiences with Montana surfaces with great passion in his paintings, and is a key feature that he hopes his viewers share. He writes, “I hope my audience will share some of the reverence I feel and the beauty I find in the state of Montana.” Well put and, indeed, well achieved.

Frank Hagel’s Western art and oil paintings are represented by three galleries in Montana:

  1. Frame of Reference Fine Art in Whitefish: frameref.com
  2. Latigo & Lace in Augusta: latigoandlace.com
  3. Dana Gallery in Missoula: danagallery.com

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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