Biography of Willard Page

 Born in Whiting Kansas in 1885 Willard Page had an affinity for drawing and painting which he enthusiastically pursued during his childhood and school days.

Difficult and limited economic opportunity in the early 1900s in Kansas led Willard to dream of a way to follow his still coalescing dreams.

An opportunity to join a traveling branch of the social and artistic edification group of the Redpath-Horner Lyceum and Chautauqua circuit was an opportunity not to be missed by the young creative and well read artist.

As part of his new found troupe he toured the Midwest and West, giving dramatic readings, often combining the talks with the rapid execution of pastel and chalk drawings. These earned him billing as a lightning artist, one who could draw as fast as he could talk. This introduced an aspect of showmanship to his presentations and helped forge his distinctive style of artwork.

When Willard met Ethel Iles through a friend in Boulder a romantic and creative partnership was formed which lasted throughout their life together. On the tours, Ethel an accomplished pianist would accompany Willard as he lectured and sketched. Due in some part to the increased accessibility and popularity of radio, disputes about the format and message of the Chautauqua series and the economy in general the circuit became a less favorable option for the newly married couple.

Leaving the curcuit Willard and Ethel struck out on their own and moved to Boulder Colorado where they had become enamored of the mountains and unspoilt scenery. These majestic vistas inspired Willard’s work and needing an income Willard began painting series of miniature landscapes depicting the beautiful and rugged surroundings. He sold his paintings to tourists by the side of the road, through gift shops and galleries and to ranchers and residents in the region living and working out of a modified truck/studio built on a 1920s Dodge chassis. When time permitted Willard produced series in larger multiple sizes formats and more significantly, epic landscapes of great clarity and skill, drawing upon all of the work he had done in his miniatures and his classical training at the Art Institute in Chicago.

Willard working in the camper/studio circa 1926 courtesy of Carolyn O’Bagy Davis

Over the years as his wife’s health was affected by worsening  arthritis they took road trips through New Mexico, Arizona and California to escape the winter weather. His work began to encompass the Southwestern landscape but he could still paint mountain scenes from memory and by request for eager patrons.

Thanks to Carolyn O’Bagy Davis for insights and information related to biography page.