Neal Butcher was born November 27, 1920, in Grandview, Missouri, a south suburb of Kansas City. He showed a strong aptitude for the arts of drawing and music from an early age, and his mother encouraged him. He attended Park College, now Park University, Parkville, Missouri, for three years with a double major in music and art. At that point he was drafted into the Army and spent some time driving buses as a noncombatant and taking night classes at Stanford University. After his tour of duty, he moved to New York where he studied voice at the American Theater Wing under Reinald Werrenrath. He taught music at the New York Musical Institute, and then sought further training in art at the Phoenix School of Design. Mr. Butcher believed that "The two arts are closely related. One is absorbed through the eyes, the other by ear."
During the time of the Apollo space program, he was a full color illustrator for North American Aviation in Downey, California. While there, he completed a map of the other side of the moon, and designed what he envisioned as the probable end product of the Apollo flight. The final end product was almost in keeping with his design. He also is known to have produced cutaway drawings of the Saturn rockets. At that time nearly 200 artists were employed producing drawings for the space program.
He studied with Leon Franks and Earl Daniels before moving to Laguna Beach, California, and in 1962, he opened his own art gallery where his oil paintings were warmly welcomed by clients from throughout the U.S. In Laguna Beach, he was well known and his paintings, especially the seascapes and florals, sold briskly. During this era he was virtually the only artist with a studio in Laguna Beach who worked in representational formats, with abstraction of various types being the rule of the day. He preferred to work always in oils, and he insisted on delivering paintings in his station wagon to their new owners' homes if they lived in the area. He sold a painting to a famous actress and threatened to return her money and retrieve the painting when she told him she was planning to hang it in the bathroom. After a scolding, she relented, and the sale was completed. He believed strongly that paintings should be of high technical quality and he was highly critical of palette knife techniques where paints were slathered onto canvas so thickly that the underlying paint would virtually never dry without cracking. Later he owned galleries in Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona, as well as in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and has exhibited his paintings in many galleries and won many shows.
Over one million prints of his paintings have been sold through Lithograph Companies and their distributors. Occasionally he signed paintings with the name "Lee" instead of his legal name, and some prints were issued under the name Lee. He has been described thusly: "Mr. Butcher is an American Master. He paints a wide variety of subjects, and is a virtuoso of tem all. It is very rare to find an artist who is so accomplished in such a wide range of subject matter. He believes in art which contributes the greatest positive emotional impact to the largest number of people."
Mr. Butcher had a one man show at the Las Vegas Art Museum, and in the Las Vegas area, where he spent the final years of his life, he also showed at the Boulder City Hospital Auxiliary Show, The Valley of Fire Museum, and numerous times in Meadows Mall and Boulevard Mall. Other galleries where Mr. Butcher's paintings are known to have been shown are: Sterling Gallery, Santa Ana, CA; The James Gallery, The Simeon Gallery and Victor Hugo Inn, all in Laguna Beach, CA; Burk Galleries, Palm Springs and San Diego; Clyde Zulch Gallery, Newport Beach, CA; Thompson Gallery, Saddleback Inn, Metro Art Gallery, Town & Country Art Gallery, Jewels by Phillip, Jim Fowlers Period Gallery, and Fine Arts Gallery, all in Phoenix; and Covered Bridge Gallery, Flagstaff, AZ. He also showed frequently in an outdoor art festival held in January in Laguna Beach.
Mr. Butcher initially attempted a career as a concert baritone and was represented in New York by the Willard Matthews concert management agency. He used the stage name Steven Andrews for his concert singing career. He was trained in Kansas City by Stanley Deacon at the Conservatory of Music of Kansas City and regularly sang on a premiere Kansas City radio station, WDAF. Frequently he was accompanied on the piano by his first wife, Kathleen Schubert Butcher, who grew up in Kansas. He also gave concerts in London, Birmingham, Coventry and other cities during his tour of duty during World War II. He recorded two of his lighter classical favorites, "Love's Philosophy" and "For You Alone," at Apex Recording Studio in New York on December 13, 1950. A British newspaper reviewer wrote, "Mr. Andrews is an outstanding artist in his field, who has received high praise from critics in the musical field, and from leading baritones of the country. Noteworthy among those who have been high in praise of Mr. Andrews are Pasquale Amato, the famous baritone of the Metropolitan Opera Company, and Reinald Werrenrath, one of the country's noted baritone concert artists. Mr. Andrews is a stellar performer in oratories, is an accomplished radio artist, and a distinguished soloist in church music." Mr. Butcher also was accomplished as a violinist, but his professional music career concentrated on singing.
Mr. Butcher explained his career switch from music to art by saying that he was a bit too nervous for concert singing, and that furthermore, television and stereophonic recordings had rendered it too easy for people to consume music by staying at home for him to continue in the concert artist path.
Toward the end of his life, Mr. Butcher continued to paint and work as a security guard in Las Vegas. He suffered a stroke from which he did not recover his ability to paint, and later died September 10, 1996 in Las Vegas. He is buried in Boulder City, Nevada. He is survived by his second wife Virginia.
This information has been compiled by Mr. Butcher's niece, Nancy Thompson Ulman, and is believed accurate.