The Meadowlark Gallery: Will James

Will James (1892-1942)
William Roderick James also known as William James Dufault also known as Joseph Ernest-Nepthali Dufault, was born in St. Nazaire de Acton, Quebec, Canada in 1892. He died in Los Angeles, California in 1942. He was a traditional western illustrator, sketch artist, painter, and writer. Ernest Dufault, a French Canadian, came to Montana under the assumed name of Will James about 1911. He hid his true identity while he worked as a cowboy and rodeo rider. In World War I, he was a Mounted Scout in the U. S. Army in California. About 1922, Harold von Schmidt and Maynard Dixon staked "Bill" James while he prepared a portfolio for SUNSET Magazine. The next year, they paid his way to New York City so he could work for SCRIBNER's. Cowboy books written and illustrated by James were issued every year. "Smokey" written in 1926 and filmed in 1934 was credited with helping influence public enthusiasm for Western art. About 1928, James acquired a 12,000 acre cattle ranch near Billings, Montana, where he wrote, drew, and painted. "I just write till I'm tired an' then spell off ‘nd draw till I get tired of that." "Lone Cowboy" was published in 1930 and made into a movie in 1933. Near the end of his real life, James was an alcoholic. His death certificate was for "William Roderick James, a cowboy, author, and artist, father's name William James from Texas." Even at the end, his life was a mystery.
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