Brooks Pettus (1918-2003) was a noted western American artist who passed away in Kennewick, Washington, leaving behind a large body of work in watercolor and oil that only recently appeared on the market. Pettus earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of New Mexico, and spent time in Albuquerque and Taos in the early 1940's. New Mexico's artistically inspiring landscape stimulated Pettus' aesthetic sense as it has for countless others. Even though he became a professional engineer, moving to California and the Midwest, and ultimately working for the Washington Public Power Supply System, Pettus never lost his interest in creating fine art. In 2017, after the death of his beloved wife Elna, an estate sale was held at the family home in Kennewick. At this sale, hundreds of watercolors, and some oil paintings, were sold to the public. While passing through the area, I was fortunate enough to have been able to acquire a handful of the works that had been purchased by a local dealer at that notable sale, which was written up in advance in the local newspaper. This unframed oil on Masonite landscape painting of an ominous, tornado-shaped cloud arising from a brush fire in the southwestern mountains is one of the pieces I purchased. It measures 14" by 24", and is signed at lower right by the artist and dated there 1962. The modernistic handling of the hills reminds of the work of earlier classic New Mexico paintings by the likes of Andrew Dasburg, Ward Lockwood and others. Tornado imagery in American Scene works by John Steuart Curry and perhaps Thomas Hart Benton would likely have been seen by the artist, contributing perhaps to this apocalyptic interpretation of smoke rising from a wildfire. The board is slightly bowed from apparent old moisture exposure (see reverse), there is light surface soiling, frame edge abrasions, and varnish is inconsistent, but essentially the work is in good condition. See a number of other works by Pettus in my shop.
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