Otis Dozier, painter, printmaker, and teacher who first became prominent as a member of the Dallas Nine, a group of regionalist artists, was born on March 27, 1904, in Forney, Texas, one of four children of James M. and Valta (Farmer) Dozier. He was raised on a farm in nearby Mesquite and developed a love for wildlife and nature, which later became the primary subject matter of his art. In the early 1920s his family moved to Dallas, where Dozier received his earliest art training from Vivian Aunspaugh, Frank Reaugh, and Cora Edge.
During the 1930s Dozier became involved with the circle of regionalist artists then active in Dallas. He was a charter member of the Dallas Artists League, exhibited his work in the Dallas Allied Arts exhibitions, and from 1936 to 1938 taught at the Dallas School of Creative Arts. During this period, while studying works by Matisse, Picasso, Léger, Derain, and other European artists reproduced in back issues of Dial, Dozier developed a style characterized by strong forms and brilliant colors. By the mid-1930s he had tightened up his brushwork and muted his palette to the earthy grays, beiges, greens, and browns favored by regionalist artists. Several of his major works from this era focused on the plight of farmers dispossessed by the Great Depression. In Annual Move (1936), for example, a family loads up the car with cherished possessions, ready to move on through the barren brown landscape; in Grasshopper and Farmer (1937), a baleful, outsized grasshopper pins a farmer to the ground. Dozier's continued interest in international trends was manifested in such works as Grasshopper and Farmer and Jackrabbits (1935), in which the exaggerated size of insects and animals suggests a Surrealist influence, and Still Life With Striped Gourd (1935), in which several conflicting perspective systems evidence the influence of Cubism on his work.
Local critics praised Dozier's work, and he won prizes in several Allied Arts exhibitions (1932, 1935, 1947) and Texas General exhibitions (1946, 1947). He executed murals at Forest Avenue High School and the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (later Texas A&M University) and, under the auspices of the Public Works of Art Project, painted murals for post offices in Giddings (1938), Arlington (1941), and Fredericksburg (1942). He began establishing a national profile during the early 1930s, when he exhibited his work at the International Watercolor Exhibition, San Francisco (1932); the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1933); and the First National Exhibition, Rockefeller Center, New York (1936).
In the summer of 1938 Dozier won a scholarship to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, where he studied with Boardman Robinson. The following year he became Robinson's assistant, a position he held until 1945. While in Colorado Dozier made hundreds of journeys into the Rocky Mountains and produced more than 3,000 sketches of mountains and ghost towns. Under Robinson's influence he developed a more spontaneous, fluid style, using implements such as paper dipped in ink, a burnt stick from a camp fire, or his thumb. He also developed expertise in the lithographic medium and participated in every circuit of the Lone Star Printmakers.
In 1945 Dozier returned to Dallas, where he taught life drawing at Southern Methodist University until 1948 and painting and drawing at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (now the Dallas Museum of Art) school until 1970. His work was featured in solo exhibitions at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (1944), the University of Texas, Austin (1944), and M. Knoedler and Company, New York City (1945), among others. A 1956 Dozier retrospective at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts garnered a positive review of his work in the December 17, 1956, issue of Time magazine. He continued to exhibit his work nationally at such venues as the Whitney Museum of American Art (1946) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1951), both in New York City.
During the latter part of his career Dozier developed a semiabstract style, using looser brushwork and more brilliant colors than he had during the Regionalist era. Although he moved away from the anecdotal subject matter of his 1930s work, he continued to use natural forms as a source of inspiration, noting that "you've got to start from where you are and hope to get to the universal." He found fresh material for his work on sketching trips to the Big Bend and Gulf Coast areas of Texas, the swamps and bayous of Louisiana, and the Four Corners area of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. During the 1950s and early 1960s he traveled to Italy, Spain, Turkey, India, Ceylon, Thailand, Japan, and Mexico. Examples of his later work were published in Otis Dozier: A Portfolio of Six Paintings (1960) and Pecos to Rio Grande: Interpretations of Far West Texas by Eighteen Artists (1983).
Dozier married Velma Davis, a jeweler and ceramist, in 1940. Their contributions to Dallas's cultural life were honored in the 1974 exhibition produced by the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, A Salute to the Doziers of Dallas. Dozier died of heart failure on July 28, 1987, and was buried at Restland Memorial Park. His work is in the permanent collections of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Witte Museum and the Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, both in San Antonio; the Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery at the University of Texas at Austin; the Longview Museum and Art Center; the Wichita Falls Museum and Art Center; the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon; the Dallas Museum of Art; and Southern Methodist University, Dallas. He is also represented in the collections of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center; the Denver Art Museum; the Newark Museum, New Jersey; the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut; the Whitney Museum of American Art; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.