Tyree, Artist of the South Pacific

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Tyree, Artist of the South Pacific by CJ Cook

Ralph Burke Tyree was an American artist who was the most prolific portrait artist of the South Pacific peoples of the 20th century. He was from central California, and his art education occurred in San Francisco. Seven weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he joined the Marines and was soon shipped off to Samoa. His Commanding General befriended Private Tyree and he became the Marines' base artist. His portrait career began with painting the officers and their loved ones. He also began corresponding with “10,000-word” love letters to his girlfriend Margo back home in Turlock, California. After the war, he started his professional career in California. He traveled back to the South Pacific to live for years in places such as Guam, Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawaii. Often from there, he would travel to other island paradises: Palau, Fiji, Tahiti, Samoa, and the Solomon Islands over his thirty-year career. Most of his first works were sensual island wahines in island beach and jungle settings. He painted primarily with oil on board, occasionally on canvas, and pastels. He switched mid-career to painting with oil on fine French-silk black velvet to add depth and texture. This was in the midst of the1960s Tiki revolution, and many of his demure nude pieces would be displayed in Tiki bars and restaurants. He was likely the most prolific artist of black velvet portraits of island women and men during this Tiki era. In the1970s, he started painting endangered animals to call attention to their limited numbers. He died suddenly of a heart attack at age fifty-seven in 1979.

 Awards from the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) April 2018:

1. Benjamin Franklin Gold - Best Cover, large format

2. Benjamin Franklin Gold - Best Biography

Biography, artist, coffee table (8.5” x 11.5” x 1”), Pages 224, Over 300 illustrations;

Publication June 15, 2017;

www.southpacificdreams.com

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Please Note: California residents will be required to pay sales tax. 

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Tyree, Artist of the South Pacific

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