KINGMAN, Ariz.- Arizona lost one of its favorite artists last week. Fred Lucas, who is well-known for his paintings of the Grand Canyon State and its residents, suddenly fell ill earlier last month and passed away on Nov. 22.
The Prescott resident's paintings hang in museums across the nation and in 30 different countries. They have hung on walls in the White House, the Arizona State Capitol, the Arizona Governor's Office, the El Tovar Hotel at the Grand Canyon and in the Mohave Museum of History and Arts.
His favorite subject was always the Grand Canyon. He painted the Canyon from rim to rim and from nearly every angle. His largest painting of the Canyon is a 12-foot by 25-foot mural that hangs in the Grand Canyon Squire Inn in Tusayan.
"There is something about the atmosphere at the Canyon. It's never the same twice. I keep finding myself drawn back to the area," he told the Miner in an interview last year.
He used the Old Dutch Masters' method of painting which involves a special preparation of the canvas, several thin layers of paint and a finishing varnish. The technique gives a beautiful luminosity and warmth to his paintings that reflected his own personality.
A long-time resident of Prescott, Lucas temporarily moved to Kingman about two years ago to paint some of the local history.
Chuck Black was one of Lucas' local friends who helped him find some of those historic sites.
"We met about two-and-a-half-years ago at Blue Jewel Water," Black said. "He was very dear to me. He was just a wonderful person. He always had a warm handshake and a smile for you."
Lucas was incredibly talented, Black said. He was not only a painter, but a poet, singer and ballroom dancer.
One of Lucas' first Kingman paintings was "Canyon Station Stage - 1873", which shows a six-horse stagecoach rumbling away from a way station nestled in a canyon in the Cerbat Mountains near Kingman.
Black said he got Lucas interested in the station, which was part of a wagon trail that led from Mineral Park Mine and other local mines to Prescott and other areas in the state. He learned of a stagecoach robbery at the station in the 1880s and was able to track down a photograph of the station.
The two men spent an afternoon scrambling over rocks in search of the old station's location and found it by comparing the rock formations in the canyon to the ones in the photograph.
Lucas was always interested in the back story of his subjects, spending long hours researching the histories and photographing and sketching them from every angle before starting his work, Black said. He worked in a number of different mediums besides oil paint.
He was meticulous about his work. He knew many of the ranchers and cowboys he painted personally and never wanted to offend anyone.
"When cowboys look at your art, they're not looking to see if you're a good painter. They're looking to see if you got the details right, if you have the right stuff to paint a cowboy," Lucas said last year.
His cowboy and rancher friends adopted him as one of their own, family members said. He would often go horseback riding with them and had the same quiet, calm, contemplative demeanor that many of them carry. He was also rarely seen without his trademark cowboy hat.
"He was always dressed very neatly. I never saw him without his boots and his hat," Black said. The two friends often enjoyed coffee, conversation and the occasional adventure.
They were supposed to drive part of the old Prescott-Mohave Road that ran from the Arizona Territorial Capital to Fort Mohave last week and take photographs and sketches for a new series of paintings Lucas was planning.
"He was one heck of a guy, a talented artist who never thought of himself as more important than anyone else," Black said.
In a previous story, Lucas told the Miner that he started painting and sketching around the age of 5. His dad had to cut up paper grocery bags to keep his mother from yelling at him for using all of his good school paper to draw on.
When he turned nine, his father signed him up for lessons with a local artist. The woman's dedication to her work despite crippling arthritis encouraged Lucas to study at the Famous Artist Schools of Westport, Connecticut. He majored in engineering and minored in art in college and worked as an engineer for a number of years in Las Vegas and New Mexico before quitting in 1976 to pursue his artwork full-time.
One of Lucas' last paintings, "Lincoln at Rest," hangs in the Lingenfelter Center. It depicts a section of mountains just beyond Coyote Pass that looks like the profile of President Abraham Lincoln's face if he was lying on his back.
Lucas was commissioned to paint the portraits of Diana Lingenfelter and Joan Becker for the Joan and Diana Hospice Home two years ago. That's where Lucas met Dr. John Lingenfelter, Diana's husband. While working on the portraits Lucas asked for photographs of the two women when they were about the same age, because he didn't want one to appear older than the other.
Lingenfelter liked Lucas' work so much that he started a collection of it to line the halls of the Center.
Lucas framed and lighted each print to his specifications. He also drew the illustrations for Lingenfelter's book "Happenings" and the artwork for Diana's tombstone.
Lingenfelter said when he pointed out the unique Lincoln-shaped mountain range to Lucas and asked if he would paint the landscape, Lucas had to find a historic aspect about the area before he could begin.
"He needed that historic element," said John Kirby, the marketing director for the Lingenfelter Center. "He always looked at things from a historic viewpoint."
Lucas researched the area and found that Coyote Pass was also part of the Prescott-Mohave Road. The finished painting depicts a caravan of canvas-covered wagons rolling through the pass after filling their water barrels at Beale's Springs.
Lingenfelter plans to petition the city of Kingman, Mohave County and the state to declare the mountain an historic landmark. He plans to give large prints of the painting to the Kingman City Council, Mohave County Board of Supervisors and the state.
"He was an incredible artist and very particular about his work," Lingenfelter said. "I knew if I commissioned him to do something for me it would be done right."
He welcomes the public to come to the Center and enjoy Lucas' artwork.
Two memorial services have been planned to celebrate Lucas' life. The first was Dec. 3 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kingman. The second will be held at the Grand Canyon. The date has yet to be set.