Duane Bryers — Dick to his friends — was not a man easily labeled.
A Minnesota farm boy, who at times worked in a saw mill and dug ditches, swung from a trapeze in the circus, painted murals, drew comic strips and sculpted historical figures in ice, found success as a commercial artist and well-known painter of Americana.
“I’ve had an absolutely fascinating life,” Bryers told an Arizona Daily Star reporter in 2010.
The prolific artist died at his Tucson home Wednesday just a month shy of his 101st birthday.
Artist enjoys a challenge
Bryers, then 98, was working on his painting "Going for the Mail," in December 2009. Of the painting, he said: "I did the whole thing out of my head without any models of any kind. Can I create this believable landscape? I made the woman smaller, then bigger. I did the road 12 times. I changed the dog's head. I challenged myself."
Artist in his NYC studio
Bryers, working in his New York City studio, was a commercial artist for big-name advertising agencies before moving to Tucson and making a name for himself as a painter of western Americana.
WWII propaganda art
Bryers took the top prize in the 1942 National War Poster Competition at the New York Museum of Modern Art. This image is a copy of an enlarged reproduction from an article in Life magazine.
Self-portrait of a starving artist
While living in New York and sharing a small apartment with three roommates, Bryers painted a self-portrait of his reflection in a dresser mirror. "All of my life I have painted the aloneness of the human being," he said of the portrait.
Hilda and the calendar girls
In the mid-1950s, he began painting a series of happy-go-lucky calendar girls. Bryers was the Norman Rockwell of pinup art, with his zaftig beauty, the oft bikini-clad “Hilda,” taking center canvas.
Iron mining and independence
In 1937, Bryers was was commissioned by his local school board to paint a mural depicting the iron-mining industry of Northern Minnesota. The $3,000 he made on that job financed his move to New York City, where he intended to “astound the art world.
After moving to Tucson with his family in 1959, Bryers added western themes to his palette. “I started doing Western paintings just for my own amusement,” he said.
'Going for the Mail'
In December 2009, Bryers was putting the finishing touches on a painting he called "Going for the Mail," which depicts a woman and her dog battling a stiff wind while walking from the farmhouse to the mailbox.