Rane, Bill, JBRSL21, Fisherman and Woman with Net.jpg

Bill Rane

“Tools get between me and my work. ... [There] are the marks of fingernails and thumbs. [And] palm prints. That is why the figures seem as much sculpted as painted. It is the laying on of hands that does it.”


Price range: $3,400 to $18,000


(1927 - 2005)  A renowned Taos artist, Bill Rane gained international art world stature within his lifetime. Today, only a very limited number of his timeless contemporary paintings are still available from his family; our gallery, which has enjoyed a long relationship with Bill Rane, is pleased to make these available.

Known for his luminous and colorful oil paintings, Bill Rane married classical motifs with the contemporary. His timeless textured canvases reflect a broad range of cultural influences from the Greek classics to Egyptian and Mayan mythologies, to European, Oriental and African elements as well. “I have been influenced by everything I have ever loved,” Bill Rane said. This includes his singular blending of more contemporary influences as well such as that of Modigliani, Picasso, Braque, and Chagall; even Matisse. But, always, Bill Rane remained resolute in forging his own unique style.

The Contemporary paintings by Bill Rane exhibit a unique dimension as translucent layers of paint allow a viewer to look through one image into another, and another. His skillful hands connect past to present, referencing history both real and imagined with elements such as goddesses and geese, pelicans and pomegranates, mythical animals and sea creatures. His references range from ancient cave paintings to elaborate sea scrolls. The Hellenic female form, which appears in much of his work, acts as muse, as Madonna, and as a sensuous giver of life, appearing simultaneously both mythic and contemporary.

A close inspection of a Bill Rane painting reveals layer upon layer of oil paint. The paint is rubbed on, scoured, poured, abraded and scarified. “I use mostly my hands,” Rane has said. “There is less friction. Tools get between me and my work. ... [There] are the marks of fingernails and thumbs. [And] palm prints. That is why the figures seem as much sculpted as painted. It is the laying on of hands that does it.” Bill Rane begins each painting with a series of lines that serve as a loose framework for the free-form elements of his imagination. He doesn’t refine until “the painting itself demands a structure, an exit from the chaos.” As Rane so astutely observed of himself, “I like to pull the rug out from under my images.”

Bill Rane continued throughout his long and esteemed career to find new adventures unveiled through his paint: “It remains as exciting to me today as the day I began,” Rane said, well into his 70’s. “I have not changed my themes much over time. It is almost as if I have worked my entire life on a single painting. It is my anthropology ... my whale song. It is my past and future mythology. I ride it like a stick horse and visit freely with the cosmos. ... I try to trace the symbols of human culture back to their primal origins. In the paintings you will see vague patterns of what are perhaps twigs, bird tracks or sea shell spiralings. Although they are in some places overwritten, eroded and even obliterated, they hint at the powerful beginnings of language, writings and religious belief. If they were to become completely defined, as letters and words, I think they would lose some of their power. The power of ‘becoming,’ that is the thing I seek.”

The path Bill Rane took to his own ‘becoming’ is as storied as any of his canvases. Born in Oregon but raised a few hundred miles east in the remote hills of Idaho, Rane knew while still a boy that he might become an artist. But it was not until after serving in the U.S. Navy during WWII that he began his art studies in earnest. He first attended Boise Junior College, then San Francisco State College, and finally the University of California at Berkeley, studying art and literature at each.

Trips to Latin America became frequent and would make a lasting impression on the artistic spirit of Bill Rane. From the late 1940’s through the early 1950’s he lived, off and on, in Guatemala where he married a native Guatemalan and had three children. By the late 1950’s, now divorced, Bill Rane became part of the beatnik community of San Francisco and the nearby town of Sausalito. He was a fixture in the early Sausalito Arts Festivals. While Bill Rane also worked as an editorial cartoonist, a screen writer and a teacher, he never strayed far from art. In 1958 he remarried (and would remain married to Judith for the rest of his life); they had five children together. The family traveled extensively throughout Mexico satisfying Rane’s continued captivation with the exotic and ancient treasures of Latin American cultures as well as the cultures’ on-going vibrancy of textures, colors, flowers and markets – it would be some of these same elements that allowed him to find his ultimate home in Taos, New Mexico, and which would define many of his exquisite contemporary paintings.

“What is subtle suggestion to the eye, the mind enlarges.”
─ Bill Rane