James Bama was born in 1926 and grew up in the Northeast. He followed his early interest in art through New York’s specialized High school of Music and Art and the Art Students League. As a professional, Bama has earned a reputation for several facets of his talent. He freelanced briefly before spending fifteen years at the respected Charles E. Cooper Studios—at the time, the country’s top firm of illustrators—and more freelancing followed. Bama’s activities during this period were highlighted by artwork for the New York Giants football team, the Baseball and Football Halls of Fame, the U.S. Air Force and The Saturday Evening Post. Fans of pop culture may know him best as the artist who portrayed Doc Savage on sixty-two memorable book covers. Then Bama decided it was finally time to do what he most wanted to do. He moved west to Wyoming, where an artist “can trace the beginnings of Western history; see the oldest weapons, saddles and guns and be close to Indian culture.” He sold his first Western fine art painting soon after the move.
The distinctive work of James Bama combines tradition with modern realities. In his much-acclaimed studies, Bama shows the contemporary West preserving its traditional culture. His portraits of inhabitants of the plains and mountains capture the true character of the West.
Today the paintings of James Bama are part of many prestigious collections. Bama has been represented in major exhibitions throughout the West and has been presented in one-man shows in New York City. Bantam Books published The Western Art of James Bama in 1975 and The Art of James Bama in 1993. James Bama was inducted into the Illustrator’s Hall of Fame June 28, 2000. Through his portraits of real people of the new West re-creating their history and heritage, Bama pays homage to the Old West and is renowned in yet another realm of the art world.