Sam Hyde Harris Paints the Desert

Though born in England in 1881, Sam Hyde Harris was an artist for the Southwest: though he did not move to the United States until he was 15, he was already drawing scenes of what he imagined the West looked like when he was just 12. When his family did move, they settled in Los Angeles, and for all his life Sam’s art reflected the region’s sun-drenched hues.

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In 1920, the Santa Fe Railway, which was resuming its advertising efforts after World War I, hired Harris to design posters and ads. Harris’ reds, yellows, and blues were perfect for the Santa Fe’s continuing theme of deserts, Indians, and the Grand Canyon.

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The Santa Fe used his paintings in posters as well as brochures, magazine ads, and other advertising. He won numerous awards for his fine art works and a great deal of recognition for his commercial art.

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Harris also did some work for the Southern Pacific, including this poster for the railroad’s premiere Sunset Limited. The Eucalyptus trees in the foreground together with the mountain background says this poster is in California, not Louisiana, the other end of the Sunset‘s journey.

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Harris eventually settled in the LA suburb of Alhambra, home to a noted artists’ colony, and was known as one of “the Eight” leading artists in the city. He outlived the other seven, remaining in Alhambra until his death at the age of 96 in 1977.

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