By Bob Sweeney, a friend
Great artists tend to die young. Larry Fanning was a great artist; his works are prized possessions in many homes, states and countries. His exquisite detail of wildlife made him an exceptionally talented artist.
Larry never sought attention and was usually in the back of the room while his donated work was auctioned off for his favorite charity. Cancer League of Colorado was the major recipient of his masterpieces.
He died unexpectedly last week leaving his faithful wife Wanda behind. We can celebrate his life’s great accomplishments, and the tragedy of his work left undone.
Larry didn’t start painting professionally until the age of 50. He spent 27 years as a minister. He hosted a very successful radio talk show On The Line With Larry that ranged upwards to one million listeners in California.
Moving to Denver in 1988, he met his lovely attorney wife Wanda at a Western dance class. The couple married Oct. 16, 1993, and lived in the mountains west of Denver until a recent move to a new studio near Golden.
Larry’s trademark was a black Western cowboy hat that he wore to many social gatherings; he and Wanda chaired 12 charitable events raising millions of dollars for their favorite nonprofit organization. Along with their leadership, they donated dozens of his works to organizations, the latest to the 2014 Cancer League of Colorado Ball called, “The Pick of The Litter” purchased by Mort and Edie Marks.
Paintings were donated to the Marvin Davis Carousel Ball in Beverly Hills; he did works of Gerald Ford and John Wayne. One of his largest paintings resides at the Rocky Mountain Eye Institute (CU Eye Center) lobby at the Anschutz Medical Campus. It was commissioned by the Kenneth King Foundation for the Lions of Colorado and Wyoming building when the current Eye Institute was opened by Dr. Bronwyn Bateman in 2000.
He won major local, state and national honors for his works. “Winter’s Retreat,” a painting of Canadian geese, was a national award winner. Edie Marks said Larry understood the animals and could look into their eyes and inner souls when he painted them.
His natural outdoor backgrounds and beautiful animal works were featured in a show at the Wildlife Experience described by Villager social editor Glory Weisberg when she said, “Throngs of serious art buyers converged on the first floor gallery, sipping wine and becoming totally entranced by the wolves, bighorn sheep, lions, jaguars, mule deer, elk, moose, elephants. Navajo Indians and a stunning Courting Swans painting featuring warm pinks, subtle shades of pearl amid a quiet landscape that for many patrons, was the hit of the show.”
Surprisingly, according to Wanda, her husband Larry was colorblind and had to be careful when driving amidst traffic lights.
But drive he did to the top of his profession with works like Rainforest Serenity, Colorado Moose, Buffalo In The Snow – his largest work – and a giant black maimed lion hanging at the entrance to the national REMAX office, and the home of John Elway, a collector.
A few works remain, several in the Knox Gallery in Vail and the Leaning Tree Museum in Boulder and a collection of numbered prints in the Golden Gallery. Much of his outdoor art went to Canadian collectors who recognized the masterpieces painted by Larry Fanning.
His death was unexpected. Larry had experienced some severe back pain in recent weeks sending him to a doctor’s office for pain medications. His condition worsened and he was rushed to Lutheran Hospital where he died on Nov. 28. His world of art partner and widow Wanda asks that any donations be made to Cancer League of Colorado Memorial Fund in his name: Cancer League of Colorado, P.O. Box 5373, Englewood, CO 80155-5373.
History shows that great artists die, but their works will live forever.
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