Dale Nichols was one of the most significant Midwestern figures in American Regionalist painting. Born in David City, Nebraska, Nichols's rural upbringing on a grain and livestock farm had a strong influence on his depiction of the American landscape and its people. Attempting to convey the spirit of Nebraska's farmers, Nichols created paintings which idealized them while capturing the grandeur and loneliness of the plains landscape they cultivated.
At the age of twenty Nichols began his study of art at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and then at the Art Institute of Chicago, followed by a year in Vienna under Joseph Binder's supervision. Nichols returned to Chicago in 1930 and made it his base for approximately fifteen years, spending one of those years as the Carnegie Professor of Art at the University of Illinois. Nichols's Chicago memberships included the Society of Typographic Artists, the All-Illinois Society of Fine Art, and the Chicago Guild of Free Lance Artists. During these years Nichols executed a mural for the U.S. Post Office at Morris, Illinois. In 1942 Nichols succeeded Grant Wood as the art editor at the Encyclopedia Britannica at its Chicago headquarters.
Although based in Chicago, Nichols's reputation was national. He had a New York dealer, Macbeth Gallery, which represented his work from 1930 to 1950, giving Nichols a one-man show in 1938. After the 1950's, his work was represented by the Grand Central Art Galleries in New York. Nichols was also a regular exhibitor at the major museum invitationals, including those held at the Art Institute of Chicago, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts and the Carnegie Institute. In addition to museum invitational exhibitions, Nichols was invited to exhibit at three World's Fairs: Century of Progress Chicago World's Fair, 1933-1934, New York World's Art Fair in 1939 and the Golden Gate Exposition, San Francisco, also in 1939.
In the Forties, Nichols divided his time between his ranch in Arizona and his beloved Nebraska, with trips to both Alaska and Mexico. In Arizona Nichols exhibited at the University of Arizona and belonged to the Tucson Archeological Society. He was the chairman of the Tucson Regional Plan from 1943 to 1945. In Nebraska, Nichols exhibited at the Joslyn Museum and the Nebraska Art Association. Nichols' Nebraska dealer was the Miller and Paine Gallery in Lincoln who arranged one of his mural commissions for Boys Town in Nebraska. While Nichols spent much of his time traveling to exotic places, he frequently returned to the Nichols family farm, near David City, Nebraska, a recurrent subject in the artist's work. Nichols once said, "I feel that an artist paints best what he has been exposed to during his youth."
Dale Nichols was one of many prominent American artists the International Harvester Company, manufacturer of the McCormick Reaper, commissioned to depict historic moments in the McCormick Reaper's development and its current use in agriculture. The commission first started with the machine's centennial in 1931 and the International Harvest Company continued to commission art works through the Fifties. With Dale Nichol's already established reputation for agricultural subjects in his paintings, he was a natural choice for the commission.
Dale Nichols' work is included in many museum collections, including those of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. During his life, Nichols had more than 18 one-man shows in museums and galleries, and exhibited in more than 80 regional and national exhibitions.
Dale Nichols died on October 19, 1995 in Sedona, Arizona at the home of one of his daughters.