Monument Valley and Southern Utah: 1923-1933
In 1923 Conrad Buff and his new wife, Mary, set out on the first of many painting excursions in Southern Utah and the Southwest. Similar to his impression of the Sierras, Buff was taken aback by the expansive, serene desert landscape and the overpowering geometric formations against the clear, blue sky. Buff’s talent didn’t go unnoticed, and in 1925 he received an invitation to participate in the Pan American Exhibition of Oil Paintings in Los Angeles.
In 1932, Buff left for another extended trip to the Southwest to produce artwork for a 1933 exhibition at the Ilsley Gallery in downtown Los Angeles. The exhibit featured many architectural pieces where defined forms, weighted by darker values at their bases, reach up to the sky like skyscrapers. Buff's show left a positive impression on the curators at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. They brought Buff national recognition by including the painting The Minarets in their exhibition Painting and Sculpture from 16 American Cities.
Conrad Buff’s work also attracted attention from the artist Maynard Dixon who came to see the exhibit. Buff’s style and the locale where he painted impressed Dixon and the two became friends quickly. Although Dixon was older than Buff, they had much in common. They were muralists, traveled often to the Southwest, and worked separate from dominant trends in California art. Furthermore, when painting, they both looked for shapes and colors that brought attention to a landscape’s intensity and immensity. Conrad and Mary Buff often visited Edith and Maynard Dixon’s small cabin in Mount Carmel, Utah where they enjoyed spending time together and painting the awe inspiring landscape.