Born in Bend, Oregon, Bill Rane grew up in Garden Valley, Idaho where as a child, he dreamed of becoming an artist, but did not begin to study art and paint in earnest, until after serving in the US Navy during WWII.
He attended Boise Junior College, then San Francisco State College and finally the University of California at Berkeley, studying art and literature at all three. Frequent trips to Latin America and a decade spent off and on in Guatemala, where he married a native Guatemalan and fathered three children, made a lasting impression on him.
Returning to San Francisco after his divorce in the late 50’s, he became part of the Beat Scene in San Francisco and Sausalito. He was a fixture in the early Sausalito Arts Festivals.
In 1958 Bill remarried and had five more children. The family traveled extensively throughout Mexico where Bill continued to be inspired by the mythology and culture.
Stylistically he drew inspiration from other ancient cultures as well as the early Modernists. He spoke often of “the literature of paint” when describing his work to visitors to his studio. He was an avid reader as well as a life long traveler, and had tremendous curiosity for the literature, art and mythology of all cultures.
His visual metaphors were derived from delving into the world of the ancient Egyptians and the Greek Classics, along with the Mayan mythology that had informed his early work, but at the same time he admired Modern Masters, Picasso and especially Modigliani, while staying true to his own vision and painterly style.
Bill was also a writer, tracing his spiritual development in a novel entitled, Talfulano (New York: Horizon Press, 1976). He had begun work on a second novel, The Diary of a Tomb Painter, describing the images the pharaoh would choose for the chamber walls of his tomb, to ease his passage into the afterlife. A prolific painter, he would dart from easel to table to easel, as he worked in an almost sporadic manner. But obviously there was a method to his madness and his process was as mercurial as his mind.
A complex and engaging man, Bill loved to have people drop by his studio as he moved around painting and stopping to talk. He was a consummate raconteur and loved to tell stories both real and imagined.
In 2005, Bill Rane passed away in Taos, where he had lived for many years. He was much loved and is missed. He was long one of the town’s most interesting characters.
Michael McCormick, an old friend of Bill and his wife Judith, has long championed the artist’s work, and continues to show his paintings and lithographs in his gallery in Taos. Michael’s tireless persistance in bringing attention to the importance of Rane’s work,has virtually put the artist on (a broader) map. Michael has over the years acquired some truly incredible, very rare pieces, and works closely with the artist’s widow to preserve Rane’s legacy as one of America’s foremost Modern Artists.
To see more of Bill Rane’s work, please visit Michael McCormick’s Gallery site linked below this post.
All images care of Michael McCormick
Photo of Bill Rane in his studio by Jeff Cavern