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Portrait of Orval Hixon in Light Suit (Self-Portrait)
Orval Hixon was a Kansas City photographer whose artistic abilities out rivaled those of his contemporaries. Hixon was a master of his craft, summoning all his skill set to produce works capturing his subjects in profound poses. Hixon from an early onset pursued an interest in the arts. After learning he was color blind as a child, he followed a path into photography with his first camera purchased in 1898. In 1905 he paid a local photographer five dollars to work as an assistant for one month. On the advice of a professor, Hixon moved to Kansas City and enrolled in the Kansas City Art Institute. This was the beginning of Hixon’s photographic career. As a portrait photographer, it was his responsibility to develop his subjects’ public images and give them a product they could share with theater producers, newspapers, or friends. Hixon also had an image to maintain and portraits of him reveal his desire to be seen as a sophisticated, fashionable man of his time as well as a great artist. Most portraits of Hixon were taken while he was working at the Studebaker Studio in Kansas City prior to opening his own studio. This photograph captures the right profile view of Hixon in an almost full-length pose with a black background. Wearing a ribbon bow tie and dressed in a light suit, Hixon sits casually with one hand in his pocket, while the other hand rests lightly on his left knee. He stares confidently at the viewer in this portrait with a slightly amused smile. Hixon was a resident in Kansas City, Missouri from 1903 through 1930 before moving to Lawrence, Kansas.