Theodore Waddell was born in 1941 in Billings, Montana, and raised in Laurel, Montana. He studied with Isabelle Johnson, Montana’s first modernist painter, before earning a scholarship to study at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. He received his MFA from Wayne State University.
Waddell’s sophisticated modernist paintings have attracted widespread recognition. A former cattle rancher, Waddell most often paints freely rendered range animals roaming the vast plains of Eastern Montana. His art draws a deliberate parallel between his subject and abstract art elements. Cattle and horses are motifs arranged formally on the flattened and enveloping painted “ground” characteristic of modernism. While his early works were noted for heavily textured surfaces, Waddell’s recent paintings are more atmospheric, with translucent wax medium layers suggesting the drift of grazing animals, transitions of days, and the movement of seasons.
Waddell was deeply influenced by Abstract Expressionists such as Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollack, Hans Hoffman, and others. Waddell noted, “I didn’t realize how important these influences were. These painters wanted you to know that the canvas had a presence, more than their illusionistic predecessors. The paint had its own identity as well with thick swatches, drips, and blurbs.”
Waddell’s paintings represent diverse approaches, styles, and techniques. There are cattle or horses dotting expansive plains. Some are huddled together in winter blizzards, lost in landscapes of thick paint, under the windswept colors of a rising moon. They are brushed, knifed, dripped, jotted down, and can be thickly textured or feint abstractions. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Denver Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Booth Museum of Western Art, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, and the National Museum of Wildlife Art, among others.
American, b. 1941