About the film

  •   MAYNARD DIXON: Art and Spirit is a feature-length documentary film, beautifully narrated by Dixon collector, Oscar-winner Diane Keaton. The film was produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker, Jayne McKay. The sensitive narration, penned by Jayne McKay and the late Daniel Dixon, won the coveted Spur Award for Best Screenplay 2008.  The original Soundtrack by John McEuen, founding member of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, lends a stirring and provocative momentum to the film. The voice of Maynard Dixon is portrayed by Grammy-winning Country artist, Don Edwards. The film was edited by Elen Orson and Jayne McKay

  • The film profiles the breathtaking art and complex life of artist, Maynard Dixon (1875–1946). The desert was Dixon’s sanctuary, a timeless place where he could forget the hurried pace of his life in San Francisco. He would often leave his wife and children, his paying work in the city, and his friends in the bohemian art scene for months of solitary searching in the American West. Under the desert stars, Dixon wrote poetry. Under the desert sun, Dixon painted, sketched and drew. His travels took him to the camps and reservations of the Hopi and Navajo, where he was welcomed with reverence for his talent with pencil, crayon and paint. He lived with the Native Americans and his art became a language between two cultures. “That sense of sun and space and silence—of serenity—of strength and freedom—if I can interpret that with what I can master of technical requirements, I will have reached the best of my endeavor",” Dixon wrote.   

  • Maynard Dixon: Art and Spirit reveals the rich canvas of his life through insightful interviews with his family, friends and members of the art community. Dixon’s sons, Daniel and John, share intimate recollections of their parent’s complex relationship. Dixon’s friends, artists Ray Strong and Milford Zornes, recall the unique character of Maynard Dixon. The film is enriched with over four-hundred Dixon paintings and drawings, portraits of Dixon taken by his lifelong friend, Ansel Adams and family photographs and rare audio by his second wife, celebrated photographer, Dorothea Lange. Dixon biographers, Donald J. Hagerty and Linda Jones-Gibbs share their expertise on the personal struggles that Dixon overcame to continue his quest to record the vanishing West. Film locations include Montana, Utah, Arizona, California and New Mexico, bringing Dixon’s paintings and drawings to life in the breathtaking panoramas of the land that he loved so deeply.   

Watch selections from the film

Here are two segments that showcase the film soundtrack by John McEuen, founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. The speaking voice is Dixon scholar, Donald J. Hagerty, author of Desert Dreams, The Art and Life of Maynard Dixon. The second clip is narrated by Oscar-winner, Diane Keaton.


"BRILLIANTLY DONE!" This Spur Award-winning documentary is simply outstanding, a vivid look at one of the West's great painters. Even if you're not familiar with the work of Maynard Dixon, this documentary is worth watching. The narrative is superb, and the subject is an artist whose story had to be told. A first-rate film! -Johnny D. Boggs, Santa Fe, NM 

  If this is a first introduction to this brilliant artist, how lucky is the viewer to meet Dixon this way. The film rolls out like a dream revealing the  breadth of a man's life, his range of vision and depth of soul,as well as his passion for place.
  McKay has exceeded the biographical film format. Somehow, this production  raises the bar above any similar effort, in part due to the soundtrack, narration, script and sheer power of the sequence of images and intensity of the  editing. A wonderful film to see, to own and to give. -C.J. Brown "Corinne", Denver, Co.

  This is an extraordinary documentary about an extraordinary American artist.   Jayne McKay's presentation is especially effective for several reasons. First, the film is remarkably rich in presenting visual material. Dixon's art--his oils, his watercolors, his sketches, and his murals--have a distinctive and powerful aesthetic appeal. McKay's inclusion of historical photographs, contemporary photographs, historical video footage, and contemporary video footage all help the viewer better understand the world in  which Dixon lived. Second, Diane Keaton and cowboy singer Don Edwards provide  professional and compelling narration. Third, Grammy-winner John McEuen of  the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band wrote the accompanying soundtrack--one that is  both soothing and sublime. Fourth, the documentary includes video interviews  with Maynard Dixon's two sons and granddaughter; these interviews give ART AND SPIRIT an added intimacy and bring the viewer closer to Maynard Dixon   himself. Finally, an perhaps most important, MAYNARD DIXON: ART AND SPIRIT is wonderfully successful in presenting not only Maynard Dixon's art, but also  in presenting Maynard Dixon the artist, Maynard Dixon the man, and the   world--or worlds--in which Maynard Dixon lived.
  Although we will never be able to fully understand the Maynard Dixon, this   documentary--wonderfully written, visually rich, and emotionally intimate--probably brings us as close as we can hope to get to understanding, in a sublime and romantic sense, his art and spirit.
  -Francis Flavin, Washington, D.C. 

  Jayne McKay's "Maynard Dixon: Art and Spirit " is a beautiful and entertaining film, but more important it is a truthful and informative look at a pivotal individual, not only in the area of Western Art but as an   important American artist in general.
  Jayne approaches Maynard as a complete person, not just through his art   works. The creations ( paintings, sketches, drawings, prints, etc. ) are shown in the context in which he lived and worked combined with a wonderful collection of personal period photography from childhood to his death. You don't just look at his life, you experience it with him.

  The combination of powerful imagery, saturated with color, and a stimulating   sound track helps to give a greater understanding of this sometimes   flamboyant, moody, complex personality: Maynard Dixon, one of America's more   inspirational masters. This film goes beyond the world of art; it is an important "must" for anyone with any interest in early 20th century American history.  - Maurine St.Gaudens, Pasadena, Ca. 

"FASCINATING DOCUMENTARY ABOUT A MASTERFUL AMERICAN PAINTER OF THE WEST" This beautiful film offers an insight into the artistic passion that set Maynard Dixon apart from the American painters who merely trailed along under the influence of the European Impressionists.

  As an artist, I've long admired Maynard Dixon's masterful ability to paint both luminous skies, and the play of shadows across broad landscapes. Dixon  captured a tangible essence of the American West, but his appeal goes far  beyond that of the regional painter. Maynard Dixon Art and Spirit offers the   audience the opportunity to see a sumptuous number of master works from   private and museum collections.

  Just as priceless are the interviews with Maynard Dixon's family. Dixon was   Dorothea Lange's first husband. In filmed interviews, their two sons and Dixon's granddaughter from his first marriage recount their memories. Jayne McKay's biographical script weaves Dixon's complicated life together into a   fascinating story. The Western Writers of American awarded the film Best Documentary of 2008.

  I love the soundtrack. The talented John McEuen performs his evocative score on a variety of traditional instruments. McEuen brings life to this fascinating documentary about an artist who, during the first half of the 20th century, made himself at home both in the sophisticated Bohemian world of San Francisco, and whenever possible, painted his canvases while he lived with traditional Native Americans.
  This film captures the essence of Maynard Dixon's life in a way that no book can.  -Laurel Porter, Minneapolis,Mn.