Sunday, January 30, 2022

Are Frank McCarthy's Paintings Detail Porn?

 January 30, 2022

   It all started with two semi-unrelated events. I was looking for possible future True West covers and came across this painting:

Frank McCarthy's "Coming of The Iron Horse"

(cropped to show the proportions

of a possible TW cover)

   Someone commented that it was a masterpiece and then someone else commented that McCarthy was merely an illustrator and not a fine art painter and then my brother in Art—Kid Ross—weighed in with this:

   "When I was a junior in college I bought a book of Frank McCarthy's paintings.  One of my art teachers scoffed at it.  I didn't know why; now I do.

   "You can see this in much of the contemporary western art scene: these guys get together and dress up to look like a mountain man or an Indian etc.  They take photos of each other and then merely reproduce the photograph....and you can both see and FEEL just how "dead" these paintings are.  (Especially when they give them names!)

   "Look at Remington's paintings and how his brush work merely "suggest" things.....compared to Remington's brush work, Frank McCarthy's is detail pornography in that it shows you everything leaving nothing left to the viewer's imagination.

   "I still have that book of McCarthy's paintings and I keep it as a reminder that it is in the obscure that we find the meaning; the obvious is merely the obvious.

   "As your doctor I suggest that you go back and ingest more acid and listen to Jimi Hendrix at a very high volume.

   "McCarthy was an illustrator, Remington was an artist, I am a drunk. So when these artists paint photo-realism I have no problem with that.....unless it is being judged as great art BECAUSE of it's realism."

   "Respectfully yours!"

—The Kid Ross (as Huey Lewis always called me)

Meeting of the Obnoxious Hat Nitpickers,
December 19, 2015. 

Left to right: Rusty York, Thom "Kid" Ross and Paul Andrew Hutton (showing off his Apache Wars book which was hot off the press and not even out yet)

"All paths lead to Pete Maxwell's darkened bedroom at midnight and when you get there, the Kid is gone, and the house is gone; only the river remains."
—Kid Ross


  1. Perhaps ART is in the eye of the beerholder. I wasn't going to comment and yet here we are. I am a fan of McCarthy. I think his art invokes in me the spirit of an old fashioned western movie, the West that lived in cinema, or maybe the cinema I wished Hollywood had made. I'm not sure it's any less art in it's realistic interpretation of a West that could have been than say Billy Schenck in his interpretation of a West of paint by numbers. I'm also a huge fan of Schenck, Terpening, Schmidt, Ross (Custer Battlefield was stunning...F-those that didn't get it), Eggenhofer, & BBB to name a few.

    I've admired the way McCarthy glued rocks and sand into his paintings...seems a bit of an artistic touch for an illustrator. But he was indeed an illustrator. Of course I think Hal Foster & Fred Harman were artists too, so there's that.

    I like all these artists for different reasons and each invokes a different mood in my view of the west. I will leave you with this- I'm sure glad Thom Ross did the art figures at Custer Battlefield and not McCarthy.

  2. Anonymous4:09 PM

    If Frank McCarthy lived in Italy in the years 1500, 1600 he would have been considered another great Caravaggio and his work now would have been sold for millions and millions of $$$. His style has nothing to do with the idea that his paintings are "fine art" or not; of course they are! how many can paint and create work like he does...or did? There are those who paint hyper-realistic, realistic, impressionistic, abstract and more. The style is personal, you may agree with it or not, that's your problem. There are so many different collectors and art buyers and many are just as happy to view paintings like those painted by McCarthy!!! I would be more than happy to take that Frank McCarthy book off your hands, if you don't want it. Please let me know. Thanks...and please get rid of that stupid, inadequate and inappropriate "pornographic" connotation; McCarthy has nothing to do with it.


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