Fred Oldfield was a portrait of longevity and cowboy history
Thursday, March 9, 2017 11:11 AM
By Pat Jenkins
As he did for all 45 of the annual Eatonville Lions Arts Festivals, artist Fred Oldfield last August displayed his western paintings and happily talked to visitors at his booth at about his days working on cattle roundups. The life he led was part of the inspiration for his western paintings. (Jim Bryant/Dispatch file photo)
This year's Eatonville Lions Arts Festival won't be quite the same. Fred Oldfield won't be there.
Oldfield, the venerable painter of cowboy and western life, died Feb. 24 in Tacoma. He was 98. He had been ill.
Oldfield exhibited his paintings at all 45 of the annual festivals that are held every summer at Glacier Park in Eatonville. He was a fixture in his cowboy hat, greeting visitors and regaling them with stories about his days riding herd in cattle roundups.
During an interview at the festival last August, he had a ready quip when he was asked if he ever considered retiring.
"From what? I paint and I fish. What should I give up?" he said.
From the time he became a full-time artist at age 60, he was a well-respected painter and passionate about teaching aspiring young artists. He taught art at the Fred Oldfield Western Heritage and Art Center, on the grounds of the Washington State Fair in Puyallup. The center includes a museum with artifacts from the old West, along with displays of paintings and art by Oldfield and other artists.
A fund-raiser for the center, scheduled for March 17, was going to double as a elebration of his 99th birthday. The event will still be held, according to his family.
On Facebook, famly members described him as "the most amazing daddy, grandfather, husband, friend, artist and gramps to hundreds of children.” The latter reference was to the art classes for youngsters at the art center that bears his name.
Oldfield first dabbled in painting at the age of 17. Among other things, he painted a flower on a bunkhouse wall.
He was raised on an Indian reservation in Yakima, and worked on tribe-owned cattle ranches.
“I basically rode with the Indians herding cows during cattle rounds,” he said while chatting at his booth at the arts festival in Eatonville last August. “I started painting western art scenes from what was seen on the reservation and during the roundups.”
After serving with the Army in World War II, Oldfield attended art school in Seattle and began painting murals in Alaska, Canada and the Northwest. Since then, his paintings have been purchased by private collectors worldwide and displayed in art museums.
Oldfield was preceded in death by his wife. A memorial service will be held for him this spring at a date and location to be determined, according to his family.