James Bama

1926, New York City –

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James Bama was born in New York City in 1926. He graduated from The High School of Music & Art, New York, and joined the Army Air Corps working as a mechanic, mural painter, and physical training instructor.

He continued his studies at The Art Students League of New York City, studying under illustrator Frank J. Reilly. Bama had a 22-year career as a successful commercial artist, producing paperback book covers, movie posters, and illustrations for such publications asArgosy, The Saturday Evening Post, and Reader’s Digest. In 1966, after a visit to Cody, Wyoming as a guest of artist Bob Meyers, Bama and his wife moved to Wyoming where he began to paint contemporary Western subjects during the day while doing freelance illustrations in the evenings. He recalled, “I never came out here with the idea to be a Western artist. It just happened, and that’s the way it should be.”

Bama moved 20 miles outside of Cody to Wapiti, Wyoming in 1971 and his total concentration became painting. His meticulously detailed subjects are Indians, cowboys, camp cooks, and mountain men. He prefers to be known as a realistic painter rather than a western painter. The landscape and culture inspire and challenge Bama, who said, “Here, an artist can trace the beginnings of Western history, see the first buildings put up, the oldest wagons, saddles, and guns, and be up close to the remnants of Indian culture … and you can stand surrounded by nature’s wonders.”

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James Bama, Mountain Man with Rifle, oil on board, 1982