TYREE: ARTIST OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC
Ralph Burke Tyree was an American artist of the mid-twentieth century who had a prolific career painting scenes from the South Pacific.
His love of the islands was sparked by a WWII Marine posted to Samoa where he became the resident Marine-base artist. After the war, he split his years between California and the Pacific, capturing the quiet exoticism of the island people and the landscapes in oil on board and black velvet.
He was one of the premier artists of the Tiki culture movement that swept the United States in the 1960s.
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About Author CJ Cook
CJ Cook is an author and historian, who has a long interest in the history of South Pacific. He has written many articles including publishing biographical sketches on historical figures. Cook is a lifelong autograph and manuscript collector who has special interest in art, poetry, and the South Pacific. He is a board member of a prominent manuscript association, dedicated to preserving manuscripts, historical documents and the written word. He also is a collector of art and artists of the South Pacific including Ralph Burke Tyree, Edgar Leeteg, Edithe Beutler, Madge Tennent, Cece Rodriguez, and William Bloom. Some of the pieces illustrated in this biography are from the author’s collection.
And finally he has and continues to explore the South Pacific including: Guam, Pohnpei, Truk, Palau, Bali, Tahiti and its surrounding islands, New Zealand, Australia and its Great Barrier Reef, Taiwan, and the Hawaiian Islands. The latter paradise he visits multiple times a year.
About Artist Ralph Burke Tyree
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 took place in San Francisco. Seven weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he joined the Marines and was soon shipped off to Samoa. Private Tyree was befriended by his Commanding General and became the marine-base artist.
His portrait career began with painting the officers’ and their loved ones, while corresponding with “10,000 word love letters” to his girlfriend Margo back home in Turlock, California. After the war, he began his professional career. 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 but also occasionally on canvas and with pastels. To add depth and texture, he switched in mid-career to painting with oil on fine French silk, black velvet. This was in the midst of the 1960s’ Tiki revolution and many of his demure nude pieces would be displayed in Tiki bars and restaurants. He was very prolific in his black velvet portraits of island women and men.
In the 1970s, 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.
Recipient of two gold awards, Best Biography and Best Cover, at the Independent Book and Publishers Association (IBPA).
Images from the Book
People Who Bought This Book Had This to Say
"What is wonderful about this book are all the small pieces of history the author found about Tyree, like a birthday card he illustrated for his wife or photos of a play plane he built for his kids on Guam. It appears the author has been working on this project for years and was in close contact with the family, which really shines through in this book due to the items he was able to share."
"With thanks to the Author, I just received an advance copy. If you love South Pacific Island History and Culture, South Pacific Women, and the Marine Corps Combat Art Program, then this book is a "must have" and should be on your reading list for 2017. Superbly written and documented, this is a magnificently bound hard copy in glorious full color. For me it is a "keeper". Buy this book !!!"
"Great book! Beautiful paintings of the South Pacific and its indigenous inhabitants. Interesting to see how a Marine who was stationed in the South Pacific interprets their culture. The velvet paintings are remarkable. You will not be disappointed with purchasing this book."
"...Tyree, Artist of the South Pacific includes dozens of well-produced examples of the artist’s work, from his early and unpublished pieces to his trademark velvet paintings. The book excels in delivering additional information, including interviews with Tyree’s adult children (whose own stories and artistic endeavors receive a short chapter near the end); their anecdotes and memories help flesh out the artist’s biography..."
"Very complete telling of the artist's life story. Beautifully illustrated with large scale, high quality photos of his work. A first class production all around. Like the author, I had come across one of Burke's paintings and was curious to know more. Info on the web was almost non-existent, but luckily a search on eBay turned up this gem. Includes a little history on other velvet painters for context. Enriched by the stories and mementos shared by the artist's wife and children, it is a much needed monograph on this highly talented velvet painter."
"Wonderful book! It's filled with glossy page after page of photographs of Burke Tyree's hauntingly beautiful oil paintings and expressive drawings but offers much, much more than that. The author, CJ Cook, has painted a vibrant portrait of a fascinating artist while including a brief history of western art of the South Pacific and the US involvement there during World War II as it relates to Tyree, who was a US Marine stationed in Samoa. Most poignantly, the life-long love story of Tyree and his beloved wife, Margo is told through the letters and drawings he sent to her during the war. CJ Cook includes a wealth of personal details and family stories that make this book as much fun to read as it is to look at. It provides valuable insight into the life and work of a pivotal, iconic American artist, Burke Tyree."