John Edward Borein (1872-1945)

John Edward “Ed” Borein was one of  several early Western artists who was actually born in the West.  As a young man he roamed the western states and much of Mexico,  working as a cowboy and using his artistic  talent to record his  experiences.  Borein, along with Charles Russell, is regarded as one of the most  authentic of all the early cowboy artists by virtue of his familiarity with the lifestyle, sights and sounds of the west. “I will leave only an accurate picture of the West,  nothing else but that. If anything isn’t authentic or just right, I won’t put it in any of my work.” -Ed Borein.

Ed Borein Etching
Ed Borein Etching

Born in San Leandro, CA, Borein would often see cows passing the family home as a child. At the age of five, Borein sketched his first piece of two horses pulling an ornamented hearse. He knew how to ride, rope and drive cattle at twelve and, upon turning eighteen, took what money he had and bought a horse and a bedroll, setting off down the coast in order to work as a cowboy.  Borein ended up back in Oakland after just one year. His mother saw the quality of the sketches he had done while cow-punching and enrolled him in the Art School of the San Francisco Art Association.  Borein didn’t last long in art school, dropping out after only a month. However, while in school he met both Jimmy Swinnerton and Maynard Dixon, who were enthusiastic in advising Borein to continue his art on his own. Borein set out again, this time to the 45,000 acre Rancho Jesus Maria, where he found the work grueling beyond his previous experience.

While at the ranch, Borein sent two drawings to Charles Lummis,   publisher of the Land of Sunshine, who bought them both for $15. After Rancho Jesus Maria, Borein headed to Mexico, where he learned Spanish and sketched the local lifestyle and landscape while working as a Vaquero on a series of large ranches. Crossing the border back into the United States, Borein came in contact for the first time with Navajo, Hopi, Zuni and Pima Indian Tribes.  Developing a deep affection for the West, and nurtured by his free lifestyle as a cowboy, he soon became known as a facile and spontaneous recorder of cowboy and Indian life.

In his early thirties Borein decided to pursue a career as a professional artist and moved to New York City, where his studio soon became a favorite haunt for important figures such as Will Rogers, Charles M. Russell, Carl Oscar Borg and Buffalo Bill Cody.

Borein returned to his native California in 1919, married, and set up a permanent studio in Santa Barbara in 1921 at 17 De La Guerra St at the El Paseo.  His etchings, watercolors, and drawings quickly earned him a reputation as one of the foremost interpreters of the American West, and few artists have done so as accurately and skillfully as Borein.  He was heavily involved in local Santa Barbara life and played a major part in the establishment of Old Spanish Days and the local riding group Rancheros Visitadoes.  Ed passed away in 1945 at his home on the mesa, “La Barranca”, the house was demolished but the street of the same name remains.  This etching is on display along side another Borein for public viewing, both etchings were donated to the museum by Joseph    Sherwood and Linda Kohn Sherwood.