Texas Post Office Murals

Sunday marked SRM artist Peter Hurd’s birthday.

During the Great Depression era, like many of his peers, Hurd joined the New Deal art projects to execute several post office murals in locations such as Dallas and Big Spring, Texas and Alamogordo, New Mexico, his native state. In Texas alone, the federal government commissioned 106 artworks for 69 post offices and federal buildings. Several of these pieces are now lost. As a scholar and admirer of American and Texas art of the 1930s, I have made it my personal mission to visit and document the remaining.

Peter Hurd, O Pioneers, 1938, Big Spring, Texas, Photo Courtesy of Leslie Thompson

Peter Hurd, O Pioneers, 1938, Big Spring, Texas, Photo Courtesy of Leslie Thompson

One of the Texas post office murals I have visited is Peter Hurd’s O Pioneers, which he painted in 1938 for Big Spring. The title is stems from a poem by Walt Whitman, a line of which is modified and inscribed on the mural:

 O Pioneers                                                                                                                          Democracy rests finally upon us                                                                                                  And our visions sweep through eternity

The painting depicts a domestic scene of pioneer life on the West Texas prairie. The Section of Fine Arts liked to project images of stability with its frontier subjects and encouraged Hurd to add details that would communicate such, like fat chickens and clothes hanging on the line to dry. While the clothesline doesn’t appear in this composition, Hurd did include the plump poultry, reinforcing another message endorsed by the federal officials: hard work leads to prosperity. In addition, Hurd attended to local details, incorporating Big Spring’s identify mesa, Signal Mountain, in the background.

Joe De Yong, Off to Northern Markets, 1939, Gatesville, Texas, Photo Courtesy of Leslie Thompson

Joe De Yong, Off to Northern Markets, 1939, Gatesville, Texas, Photo Courtesy of Leslie Thompson

To our museum visitors and Charles Russell followers, another familiar name found among the Texas post office murals is the cowboy artist’s only protégé, Joe De Yong. In 1939, De Yong painted Off to Northern Markets, for the Gatesville post office. Although a California artist, De Yong grew up among Texas and Oklahoma cowboys, providing him with some knowledge of cattle drives. (Fun fact: De Yong worked on this Gatesville mural while serving as technical advisor and costume designer for the Cecil B. De Mille movie Union Pacific.)

Encore: Artist as Recorder

Back by popular demand, the museum hosted an encore children’s workshop focusing on the artist’s role as recorder.

Like traveling American artists in the 19th century, the kids had to carry their sketching supplies with them throughout the galleries. On our art adventure, each young artist received a canvas bag that they customized and decorated.IMG_5449IMG_5451

With their notes and sketches freshly drawn, the young traveling artists journeyed into the studio classroom where they brought their drawings to life with paint and canvas.Artist as recorder encoreIMG_5463artist as recorder artists

Campin’ Buddies

“In the city men shake hands and call each other friends but it’s the lonesome places that ties their harts together and harts do not forget.”

– Charles M. Russell to Santa Fe [Tom Conway], March 24, 1917

Last week we welcomed back home one of our own – Charles Russell’s Man’s Weapons Are Useless When Nature Goes Armed. Originally hung in Sid Richardson’s dining room at his San Jose Island home, this painting is a favorite among our visitors and had been out on loan with the traveling exhibition, Harmless Hunter: The Wildlife Work of Charles M. Russell, which was organized by the National Museum of Wildlife Art and the Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of the Art of the American West, University of Oklahoma.

Charles Russell, Man's Weapons Are Useless When Nature Goes Armed, 1916, Oil on canvas, 30 inches x 48 1/8 inches

Charles Russell, Man’s Weapons Are Useless When Nature Goes Armed, 1916, Oil on canvas, 30 inches x 48 1/8 inches

rehanging collage 2

After completing Man’s Weapons…, Russell gifted the painting to his good friend, Howard Eaton, a pioneer dude rancher. Originally from Pittsburgh, Eaton had settled in North Dakota in 1882 and then relocated permanently on the eastern side of the Big Horn Mountains once his dude wrangling business gained a popular reputation. In fact, the Eaton dude ranch is still open today on Wolf Creek and operated by the fourth and fifth generations of Eatons.

The ranch sits near some national historic sites and parks. Howard Eaton had expanded his operation to include trail rides through the nearby Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks and to the Southwest along the Grand Canyon. Russell accompanied Eaton on several trail rides, including a camping trip through Glacier in 1915 and 1916.

Russell (third from left) modeling for (from left) Howard Eaton, artist Joe Scheuerle, and an unidentified man in Glacier in 1915, AJ Baker, photographer, MHS photograph archives, Helena, Pac 99-52.MI, Courtesy of Montana’s Charlie Russell: Art in the Collection of the Montana Historical Society

Russell (third from left) modeling for (from left) Howard Eaton, artist Joe Scheuerle, and an unidentified man in Glacier in 1915, AJ Baker, photographer, MHS photograph archives, Helena, Pac 99-52.MI, Courtesy of Montana’s Charlie Russell: Art in the Collection of the Montana Historical Society

The artist and his wife Nancy joined an Eaton party on a particularly memorable excursion through Navajo country and the Grand Canyon in Fall 1916 and kept a photo album of the trip, which shows Charlie relaxed and happy. The couple had been on an excursion to the Southwest before, and were both completely enchanted by Arizona. Nancy later recounted to a friend, “This trip has been a trip of memories. Chas. just loved it all and had such a good time every day then around the camp fires at night they always had the big talk.”

The Eaton party on Bright Angel Trail, Howard Eaton in the lead in vest and tie, Photograph by Almeron J. Baker, Helen E. and Homer E. Britzman Collection.  TU2009.39.7650.81/D.10.845. Gilcrease Museum Archives.  University of Tulsa.

The Eaton party on Bright Angel Trail, Howard Eaton in the lead in vest and tie, Photograph by Almeron J. Baker, Helen E. and Homer E. Britzman Collection. TU2009.39.7650.81/D.10.845. Gilcrease Museum Archives. University of Tulsa.

Nancy and Charlie Russell at chow time, Photograph by Almeron J. Baker, Helen E. and Homer E. Britzman Collection.  TU2009.39.7650.20/D.10.784. Gilcrease Museum Archives.  University of Tulsa.

Nancy and Charlie Russell at chow time, Photograph by Almeron J. Baker, Helen E. and Homer E. Britzman Collection. TU2009.39.7650.20/D.10.784. Gilcrease Museum Archives. University of Tulsa.

Doubly Gifted: George Catlin’s Writings

Recently we had the honor of hosting a lecture by Dr. Ron Tyler for our latest Coffee & Collecting program. Dr. Tyler is the retired Director of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas. He is former Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin and Director of the Texas State Historical Association and the Center for Studies in Texas History at the University and has published a number of works in the areas of Texas, Western American, and American art and history.  Dr. Tyler is very knowledgeable on the topic of George Catlin and his writings, as the Amon Carter acquired their copy of Catlin’s publications while Tyler was the museum director.CC Ron Tyler 2

Catlin began his travels west in the 1830s to record the manners and customs of American Indians, both in visual and written form.

“Black and blue cloth and civilization are destined, not only to veil, but to obliterate the grace and beauty of Nature. Man, in the simplicity and loftiness of his nature, unrestrained and unfettered by the disguises of art, is surely the most beautiful model for the painter,—and the country from which he hails is unquestionably the best study or school of the arts in the world: such I am sure, from the models I have seen, is the wilderness of North America. And the history and customs of such a people, preserved by pictorial illustrations, are themes worthy the life-time of one man, and nothing short of the loss of my life, shall prevent me from visiting their country, and of becoming their historian.”

-George Catlin, Letters and Notes…, 1841

letters and notesCatlin LettersIMG_4943

In addition to producing over 500 paintings, Catlin wrote letters to newspapers about his observations during his summer excursions. The artist later self-published these collected newspaper columns in 1841. The two volume book is titled Letters & Notes of the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians. It was a hit! Readers and critics alike loved the book and it sold well. Unfortunately, the publication did not earn enough to pay for the extravagant production costs.portfolios

By 1844, Catlin began work on his second book, a large folio edition of his paintings in four parts with 25 lithographic prints in each. The four parts would include: hunting and amusement scenes; portraits and costumes; religious rites and ceremonies; warfare and its cruelties. The volume provided Catlin with a means of widening the audience for his advocacy of the American Indian.

To produce the prints, or plates, the artist contracted with the best lithographers in London – William Day and Louis Haghe. The first issue of Catlin’s North American Indian Portfolio included plates that were hand-colored, while the second issue (as in the copy displayed in our exhibition) had tinted plates. Both editions are now very rare. Again, Catlin received public praise, with critics citing the publication as “an artistic and historical volume of very rare merit” (The Times, November 26, 1844).Pl30_BuffaloeHuntingCatlin Buffalo Dance Portfolio 2IMG_5286

Unfortunately, from the costs of self-publishing both books and traveling an exhibit of his paintings and artifacts throughout the U.S. and Europe, Catlin became submerged in severe debt. He sold his first collection of paintings to Philadelphia Industrialist, Joseph Harrison, and his books to British publisher and bookseller Henry G. Bohn. By 1875, Chatto & Windus acquired Bohn’s rights to Catlin’s books. Today, one can find many different versions of Catlin’s books, but none as beautifully produced as those early rare editions.

K’nick-K’neck

From time to time, I like to break away from my office to walk through our museum galleries and enjoy the artwork that I often write about on this blog. During one of those leisurely strolls I caught a glimpse of something that was unfamiliar. In one of the paintings from our current exhibition, Take Two, I noticed a strange creature hanging from the belt of one of the figures. When I looked closely, I noticed another figure sporting a similar accessory. I then began to carefully examine the rest of the Catlin images and spotted this particular object in two more paintings. What is that?!

George Catlin | Nine Ojibbeway Indians in London | 1861 - 1869 | Oil on card mounted on paperboard

George Catlin | Nine Ojibbeway Indians in London | 1861 – 1869 | Oil on card mounted on paperboard

Nine Ojibbeway Indians in London, otter 1

Detail

Detail

Detail

“Mandan War Chief with His Favorite Wife,” George Catlin (1796-1872),  (Cartoon No. 30) Oil on card mounted on paperboard, 18 ¼ x 24 5/16 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

“Mandan War Chief with His Favorite Wife,” George Catlin (1796-1872),
(Cartoon No. 30) Oil on card mounted on paperboard, 18 ¼ x 24 5/16 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

Detail

Detail

It’s an otter! But why are they hanging off men’s belts or sitting around like handbags? Thus the search began to uncover this mystery. After reading through Catlin’s writings, I found my answer. In his famous Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of North American Indians, of which we have a rare copy currently on display, Catlin mentions his encounters with these ornamented otters. In some instances, such as his experience with a Blackfoot brave, Pe-toh-pee-kiss (The Eagle Ribs), the otter skins were made for medicine bags. These medicine bags had great meaning and importance, so much so, that when its owner dies, it is placed in his grave and decays with his body.

“Catlin Feasted by the Mandan Chief,” George Catlin (1796-1872), (Cartoon No. 133:  The author feasted in the wigwam of Mah-to-toh-pa, the war chief of the Mandans, dining on a roast rib of buffalo and pemican.) Oil on card mounted on paperboard, 18 ¼ x 24 9/16 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

“Catlin Feasted by the Mandan Chief,” George Catlin (1796-1872), (Cartoon No. 133:
The author feasted in the wigwam of Mah-to-toh-pa, the war chief of the Mandans, dining on a roast rib of buffalo and pemican.) Oil on card mounted on paperboard, 18 ¼ x 24 9/16 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

Detail

Detail

Detail

Detail

A more common use for otter skins among the tribes Catlin encountered was as a pouch for k’nick-k’neck, or tobacco. The artist demonstrates this custom in his painting Catlin Feasted by the Mandan Chief. Catlin dines on roasted buffalo ribs while the Mandan Chief Four Bears prepares his pipe for an after-dinner smoke. Next to Four Bear’s foot lies his otter-skinned tobacco pouch. Another can be found on display in the foreground of the painting.

In Letter No. 16. from Catlin’s Letters and Notes, the artist describes this very scene:

I spoke in a former Letter of Mah-to-toh-pa (the four bears), the second chief of the nation, and the most popular man of the Mandans — a high-minded and gallant warrior, as well as a polite and polished gentleman. Since I painted his portrait, as I before described, I have received at his hands many marked and signal attentions; some of which I must name to you, as the very relation of them will put you in possession of many little forms and modes of Indian life, that otherwise might not have been noted.

About a week since, this noble fellow stepped into my painting-room about twelve o’clock in the day, in full and splendid dress, and passing his arm through mine, pointed the way, and led me in the most gentlemanly manner, through the village and into his own lodge, where a feast was prepared in a careful manner and waiting our arrival. The lodge in which he dwelt was a room of immense size, some forty or fifty feet in diameter, in a circular form, and about twenty feet high — with a sunken curb of stone in the center, of five or six feet in diameter and one foot deep, which contained the fire over which the pot was boiling. I was led near the edge of this curb, and seated on a very handsome robe, most ingeniously garnished and painted with hieroglyphics; and he seated himself gracefully on another one at a little distance from me; with the feast prepared in several dishes, resting on a beautiful rush mat, which was placed between us.

The simple feast which was spread before us consisted of three dishes only, two of which were served in wooden bowls, and the third in an earthen vessel of their own manufacture, somewhat in shape of a bread-tray in our own country. This last contained a quantity of pem-I-can and marrow fat; and one of the former held a fine brace of buffalo ribs, delightfully roasted; and the other was filled with a kind of paste or pudding, made of the flour of the “pomme blanche”, as the French call it, a delicious turnip of the prairie, finely flavored with the buffalo berries, which are collected in great quantities in this country, and used with divers dishes in cooking, as we in civilized countries use dried currants, which they very much resemble.

A handsome pipe and a tobacco-pouch made of the otter skin, filled with k’nick-k’neck (Indian tobacco), laid by the side of the feast; and when we were seated, my host took up his pipe, and deliberately filled it; and instead of lighting it by the fire, which he could easily have done, he drew from his pouch his flint and steel, and raised a spark with which he kindled it. He drew a few strong whiffs through it, and presented the stem of it to my mouth, through which I drew a whiff or two while he held the stem in his hands. This done, he laid down the pipe, and drawing his knife from his belt, cut off a very small piece of the meat from the ribs, and pronouncing the words “Ho-pe-ne-chee wa-pa-shee” (meaning a medicine sacrifice), threw it into the fire.

He then (by signals) requested me to eat, and I commenced, after drawing out from my belt my knife (which it is supposed that every man in this country carries about him, for at an Indian feast a knife is never offered to a guest). Reader, be not astonished that I sat and ate my dinner alone, for such is the custom of this strange land. In all tribes in these western regions it is an invariable rule that a chief never eats with his guests invited to a feast; but while they eat, he sits by, at their service, and ready to wait upon them; deliberately charging and lighting the pipe which is to be passed around after the Feast is over. Such was the case in the present instance, and while I was eating, Mah-to-toh-pa sat cross-legged before me, cleaning his pipe and preparing it for a cheerful smoke when I had finished my meal. For this ceremony I observed he was making unusual preparation, and I observed as I ate, that after he had taken enough of the k’nick-k’neck or bark of the red willow, from his pouch, he rolled out of it also a piece of the “castor,” which it is customary amongst these folks to carry in their tobacco-sack to give it a flavor; and, shaving off a small quantity of it, mixed it with the bark, with which he charged his pipe. This done, he drew also from his sack a small parcel containing a fine powder, which was made of dried buffalo dung, a little of which he spread over the top, (according also to custom,) which was like tinder, having no other effect than that of lighting the pipe with ease and satisfaction. My appetite satiated, I straightened up, and with a whiff the pipe was lit, and we enjoyed together for a quarter of an hour the most delightful exchange of good feelings, amid clouds of smoke and pantomimic signs and gesticulations.

Catlin as Showman

As mentioned previously, George Catlin went on several summer excursions West in the early 1830s to record the customs and characters of American Indian tribes he encountered. After 1837, Catlin the artist turned into Catlin the showman, touring the East Coast and Europe with his collection of paintings, costumes, weapons, and household artifacts. He called it his “Indian Gallery” or “Gallery Unique.” In doing so, Catlin inaugurated the elements of what was to become known as Wild West Shows.

Unknown artist, The World's Greatest Amusement Institution Tompkin's Real Wild West Frontier Exhibition and European Circus, ca. 1911, Lithograph, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Unknown artist, The World’s Greatest Amusement Institution Tompkin’s Real Wild West Frontier Exhibition and European Circus, ca. 1911, Lithograph, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Unknown artist, Buffalo Ranch Real Wild West: Cowboys, Cowgirls, Indians, and Mexicans, ca. 1890-1910, Chromolithograph, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Unknown artist, Buffalo Ranch Real Wild West: Cowboys, Cowgirls, Indians, and Mexicans, ca. 1890-1910, Chromolithograph, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

The Wild West Show as a form of entertainment did not become a major cultural phenomenon until the late 19th century, when Americans and Europeans became intrigued with the rapidly disappearing Plains frontier. All Wild West Showmen shared a goal – to create popular entertainments that provide spectators an opportunity to witness and appreciate replications of life on the Great Plains. Audiences of these shows typically experienced the portrayal of a simple, romantic world in which heroic people on horseback enjoyed untrammeled freedom, quickly eliminated evil, and ensured the success of the “American” way.

Erwin E. Smith, Part of the Wild West Show of Gordon W. Lillie "Pawnee Bill," famous showman who was touring the Eastern states at the time Erwin E. Smith, the photographer, was attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Photographed against a painted backdrop. Boston, Massachusetts., 1908, Nitrate negative, Courtesy of Erwin E. Smith Collection of the Library of Congress on Deposit at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, © Erwin E. Smith Foundation

Erwin E. Smith, Part of the Wild West Show of Gordon W. Lillie “Pawnee Bill,” famous showman who was touring the Eastern states at the time Erwin E. Smith, the photographer, was attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Photographed against a painted backdrop. Boston, Massachusetts., 1908, Nitrate negative, Courtesy of Erwin E. Smith Collection of the Library of Congress on Deposit at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, © Erwin E. Smith Foundation

Erwin E. Smith, Performers with stage coach in Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show., 1908, Gelatin dry plate negative, Courtesy of Erwin E. Smith Collection of the Library of Congress on Deposit at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, © Erwin E. Smith Foundation

Erwin E. Smith, Performers with stage coach in Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show., 1908, Gelatin dry plate negative, Courtesy of Erwin E. Smith Collection of the Library of Congress on Deposit at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, © Erwin E. Smith Foundation

Catlin pioneered much of the Wild West Show tradition, including conveying the look and feel of the prairies, its people, animals that roamed there, the joy of the hunt and chase, and colorful aspects of the frontier. The artist had witnessed the end of the Plains Indian culture – one built around family, ceremonial life, horsemanship, buffalo hunting, warfare and other pursuits free from outside influences. He believed that others would only know of the “vanishing” American Indian cultures through the visual record he had preserved, compelling him to reproduce and interpret the Plains Indian culture for the public and make a living in the process. Catlin conveyed his ideas through the reigning media of the day – paintings, museum-like collections, books, and lectures – and traveled his collection around the world.

Broadside for Catlin exhibit in Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, England, ca.1844, Courtesy Toronto Public Library, Gift of the Metcalf Family in Honour of Robert F. Reid

Broadside for Catlin exhibit in Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, England, ca.1844, Courtesy Toronto Public Library, Gift of the Metcalf Family in Honour of Robert F. Reid

George Catlin | Nine Ojibbeway Indians in London | 1861 - 1869 | Oil on card mounted on paperboard

George Catlin | Nine Ojibbeway Indians in London | 1861 – 1869 | Oil on card mounted on paperboard

George Catlin's Indian Gallery, The Grand Salon, Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Photo by Il Primo Uomo on Flickr

George Catlin’s Indian Gallery, The Grand Salon, Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Photo by Il Primo Uomo on Flickr

Producing his enterprise was no simple – or inexpensive – task. Catlin had to hire many helpers. His collection of art and artifacts required proper packing and shipping. In addition to the hundreds of paintings, there were several thousand artifacts: tobacco pipes and domestic objects; weapons of war, the tomahawks, scalping knives, and clubs; and two live grizzly bears, which proved too troublesome for the European portion of his traveling exhibit. With a limited supply of affordable and fashionable exhibition space, Catlin often settled on salons at law buildings, old chapels, old theaters, and public buildings. His paintings and artifacts crowded the walls, displayed in what is referred to as “salon style,” in which images are stacked on top of each other from floor to ceiling. The exhibition’s festivities began promptly at 7:30pm. Electricity not yet available, lighting in the evening hours was provided by candles or whale oil lamps. Can you imagine?!

**Information for this post was collected by SRM research volunteer Shelle McMillen. Thank you, Shelle!**

The Cowboy Artist

It’s that time of year again – the Fort Worth Stock Show. Festivities begin tomorrow, and to gear up for the event we’re taking a look back at the roundup years of cowboy artist Charles M. Russell.

MHS Photograph Archives, Helena, 944-687, Courtesy of Montana’s Charlie Russell: Art in the Collection of the Montana Historical Society

Untitled, photographer unidentified, MHS Photograph Archives, Helena, 944-687, Courtesy of Montana’s Charlie Russell: Art in the Collection of the Montana Historical Society

As a young boy, Charles Russell was fascinated by tales of the West – Indians, explorers, cowboys, and more. Young Charlie was an avid reader of dime novels and tales of the pioneering frontier. By the age of 16, his parents relented to their son’s request to work on a ranch in Montana Territory. Much to their chagrin, Russell became enamored with the Big Sky Country and resolved to make it his home.

In 1882, Russell began working as a night wrangler, or a nighthawk, for the Judith Basin roundup. His task was to tend to the herd of horses while the other cowboys slept. Despite not being a good roper or rider, he held his job and supported himself by working as wrangler for the next 11 years.

Untitled, unidentified photographer, MHS Photograph Archives, Helena, 946-387, Courtesy of Montana’s Charlie Russell: Art in the Collection of the Montana Historical Society

Untitled (Russell third from the left), unidentified photographer, MHS Photograph Archives, Helena, 946-387, Courtesy of Montana’s Charlie Russell: Art in the Collection of the Montana Historical Society

Charlie on his horse Monte, 1886, Towner and Runsten, photographer, MHS Photograph Archives, Helena, 944-688, Courtesy of Montana’s Charlie Russell: Art in the Collection of the Montana Historical Society

Charlie on his horse Monte, 1886, Towner and Runsten, photographer, MHS Photograph Archives, Helena, 944-688, Courtesy of Montana’s Charlie Russell: Art in the Collection of the Montana Historical Society

With his sense of humor, the young cowboy made friends effortlessly and kept his crew entertained with tales by the campfire. As he told a story, Charlie would work bits of wax in his hands to create figures and other small sculpture. Likewise, the self-taught cowboy artist would spend his free time drawing and sketching. By 1893, Russell left his work on the range and pursued a full-time career as an artist, producing scenes of the West he witnessed during his cowboy days.

Charles M. Russell, A Bad One, 1912, Pencil, watercolor and gouache on paper, 19 3/4 x 28 5/8 inches

Charles M. Russell, A Bad One, 1912, Pencil, watercolor and gouache on paper, 19 3/4 x 28 5/8 inches

Charles M. Russell, The Bucker, 1904, Watercolor, pencil & gouache on paper, 16 1/4 x 12 1/4 inches

Charles M. Russell, The Bucker, 1904, Watercolor, pencil & gouache on paper, 16 1/4 x 12 1/4 inches

Kidd Russell poses with Wallace Stairley in 1887, R. H. Beckwith, photographer, MHS Photograph Archives, Helena, 944-729, Courtesy of Montana’s Charlie Russell: Art in the Collection of the Montana Historical Society

Kidd Russell poses with Wallace Stairley in 1887, R. H. Beckwith, photographer, MHS Photograph Archives, Helena, 944-729, Courtesy of Montana’s Charlie Russell: Art in the Collection of the Montana Historical Society

Bill and Charles

Yesterday marked Charles Schreyvogel’s birthday. The young artist grew up in New York and New Jersey, but traveled to Europe where he studied at the Munich Art Academy. Schreyvogel returned weak and sickly. Although the doctor urged Schreyvogel to seek the dry, hot air of the American West, in the 1890s, the closest the artist could get to the West was William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s Wild West Show in New York. The traveling performance became one of Schreyvogel’s primary sources of information about Native Americans. He spent many visits sketching the actors from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Shows. It was the beginning of a friendship that would last many years.

Charles Schreyvogel, Attack on the Herd (Close Call), c. 1907, Oil on canvas, 26 1/8 x 34 1/4 inches

Charles Schreyvogel, Attack on the Herd (Close Call), c. 1907, Oil on canvas, 26 1/8 x 34 1/4 inches

Schreyvogel and his wife were frequent guests of Cody’s when the show was on the road, taking rides in the show arena in the famous Deadwood stage coach. In 1907, in an effort to refurbish Buffalo Bill’s image, Cody commissioned Schreyvogel to paint Rescue at Summit Springs, the Indian battle in which Cody had successfully taken part back in 1869. Charles Schreyvogel was one the most important artists whom Buffalo Bill patronized. As a token of their friendship, Cody gifted Schreyvogel a newly-made Sioux tepee, which would stand in the corner of Schreyvogel’s studio for many years and occasionally used as a model in paintings.

Stacy, Col. W. F. Cody "Buffalo Bill", ca.1900, Collodion silver chloride print, Courtesy Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Stacy, Col. W. F. Cody “Buffalo Bill”, ca.1900, Collodion silver chloride print, Courtesy Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Unknown artist, [Buffalo Bill on horseback], ca.1900, Gelatin silver print, Courtesy Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Unknown artist, [Buffalo Bill on horseback], ca.1900, Gelatin silver print, Courtesy Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

William Notman, [Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill Cody], ca.1891, Albumen silver print, Courtesy Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

William Notman, [Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill Cody], ca.1891, Albumen silver print, Courtesy Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Schreyvogel once tried to persuade Cody to accompany him on a tour of the West, but the old showman declined “because sick or well I have to be with the show.”

George Stacy, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, ca.1890s, Halftone, Courtesy Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

George Stacy, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, ca.1890s, Halftone, Courtesy Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Museum Reflections

As 2014 comes to a close, we take this time to reflect on the past year. Hosting two special exhibitions and several public programs, the museum reached a large a diverse group of people. We welcomed over 40,000 visitors this year!

In addition, through our school tour programs, the education department shared our collection and exhibitions with nearly 3,500 students. Besides a docent-guided tour through the galleries, the students get to experience hands-on activities in the studio, which allow them a way to relate their personal response to the collection with their own artistic experience. Art activities can range from printmaking and painting to weaving and metal tooling.

Based on their responses, it’s safe to say the kids enjoyed their museum visit. But don’t take my word for it.img-141218153852-0001img-141218161459-0001img-141218161439-0001img-141218161518-0001img-141218153835-0001

Happy Holidays

The holiday season can be filled with joy and merriment. But it can also be a time of stress and anxiety. To help assuage your concerns, we consulted some of the artwork in our galleries for advice on how to best enjoy the season’s celebrations.

Frederic Remington | The Puncher | 1895 | Oil on canvas | 24 x 20 1/8 inches

Frederic Remington | The Puncher | 1895 | Oil on canvas | 24 x 20 1/8 inches

SRM: Travel during the holidays can be a mess. Do you have any tips for transportation?

Puncher: Find a dependable vehicle. The last thing you want to worry about is your carriage falling apart, leaving you stranded far away from home. Me? I count on my trusty steed. A cowboy is only as good as his horse.

Charles M. Russell | Trouble on the Horizon [Prospectors discover an Indian Camp] | 1893 | Oil on canvas | 26 1/8 x 34 inches

Charles M. Russell | Trouble on the Horizon [Prospectors discover an Indian Camp] | 1893 | Oil on canvas | 26 1/8 x 34 inches

SRM: Do you have any advice for packing lightly for holiday travel?

Prospectors: As you can see, we enjoy a minimalist lifestyle. We can carry only what will fit on our packhorse. However, minimalism does not equate austerity. While we are prepared to pan for our fortunes, we do not neglect such creature comforts as a good pot of coffee.

“Catlin Feasted by the Mandan Chief,” George Catlin (1796-1872), (Cartoon No. 133:  The author feasted in the wigwam of Mah-to-toh-pa, the war chief of the Mandans, dining on a roast rib of buffalo and pemican.) Oil on card mounted on paperboard, 18 ¼ x 24 9/16 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

“Catlin Feasted by the Mandan Chief,” George Catlin (1796-1872), (Cartoon No. 133:
The author feasted in the wigwam of Mah-to-toh-pa, the war chief of the Mandans, dining on a roast rib of buffalo and pemican.) Oil on card mounted on paperboard, 18 ¼ x 24 9/16 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

SRM: What does it take to host a good holiday dinner party?

Mandan Chief: One word: hospitality. I like to let my guests know that I put their needs first. That’s why I never eat with my guests, but rather sit by them, wait upon them, and prepare for after-dinner festivities.