Category Archives: Curator’s Corner

The Unsolved (and Solved) Mysteries of Remington

This month marks the opening of our new focus exhibit from our “Guest of Honor” series entitled Frederic Remington: Altered States. This exhibit brings together a small grouping of Remington’s works, including two rarely seen paintings from the Museum’s permanent collection, as well as bronzes and books from private collections. Altered States not only highlight’s Remington’s career as an illustrator, but it also examines the various issues surrounding the authenticity of a work of art.

Let’s first look at alterations to artworks made by the artist’s hand. The exhibit features two versions of the same Remington bronze, The Rattlesnake. In this sculpture, Remington depicts a rider and his horse shying away from a rattlesnake on the ground. The scene is filled with unrestrained action. Three years and eleven castings after his first cast of The Rattlesnake, Remington reworked the design and the resulting bronze exhibited some different details. First there are the structural alterations, with the overall sculpture being 3 inches taller than the first version and with a smaller base. Changes to the model included tucking the horse’s forelegs and straightening his rear legs which increased the tension and thrusted the rider forward. While viewing the two bronzes displayed side by side in the gallery, make note of the alterations of the rider’s gear in the second version of the sculpture. Even the color of the patina of the bronze is different.

The Rattlesnake [first version] | Copyrighted January 18, 1905 | Roman Bronze Works cast #5, 1906 | Private Collection

The Rattlesnake | Copyrighted 1905 | Roman Bronze Works cast #19, 1910 | Private Collection

Frederic Remington | The Thunder-Fighters Would take Their Bows and Arrows, Their Guns, Their Magic Drum | 1892 | Oil on wood panel | 30 inches x 18 inches

Another example of alterations to an artwork by the artist himself is the SRM painting The Thunder-Fighters Would take Their Bows and Arrows, Their Guns, Their Magic Drum. We explored the mystery surrounding this artwork in an earlier blog post. Fortunately, we have great detectives in the way of art conservators to help us. X-rays and infrared photography of the painting revealed the hidden third figure that Remington had over painted. Exactly why Remington chose to alter the composition from the published illustration remains a mystery.

X-ray of Remington’s Thunder Fighters with 3rd figure circled

Sometimes artists make changes to their artwork, but sometimes alterations are made by those other than the artist, which raises various questions about authenticity. Take for example the SRM painting He Rushed the Pony Right to the Barricade. Remington originally painted this work in black-and-white for an illustration that was published in his novel, The Way of an Indian (a copy of which is on display in the exhibit). The Museum has other black-and-white paintings in the collection by Remington as well. What makes this work stand out? At some point, someone painted over He Rushed the Pony Right to the Barricade, resulting in a vibrantly hued composition. But who did it? This sounds like another excellent case for art conservators, a.k.a. the detectives! An analysis at a research lab revealed that a layer of dirt separated two layers of paint, indicating that several years had passed between the applications. Furthermore, analysis of the top, colored layer determined that this paint was not produced until over two decades after Remington’s death. Ah ha! Twas not an alteration by the artist’s hand. Someone with fraudulent intentions has compromised the work.

He Rushed the Pony Right to the Barricade | ca. 1900 | Oil on canvas

The ultimate Remington mystery involves a small work on paper entitled The Way Post. The simple watercolor study could perhaps be a product of Remington’s first trip West in 1881, a brief period in which the young artist signed his works with his initials, “F.R,” though he rarely used it as his signature after that year. Despite those details, it is difficult to attribute this work to Remington with certainty.

The Way Post | attributed to Frederic Remington | ca. 1881 | Watercolor and gouache on paper

In fact, the work is reminiscent of another Western illustrator of the same era, William de la Montagne Cary (1840-1922). The Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, OK houses a collection of Cary’s works, including a watercolor sketch of comparable size, The Strong Cup.

William de la Montagne (1840-1922), A Strong Cup, Collection of the Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma

With so many questions circulating around an artwork like this, who are you going to call? The art conservators! Conservation staff at the Kimbell Art Museum conducted studies on the work from the Museum’s collection. While infrared reflectography (a non-invasive method of looking through paint layers) did not real any pentimenti, or artist changes, examination under the microscope revealed that the signature initials were painted with a bulkier, more granular white paint than the artist used for highlights in the rest of the work. Likewise, the initials appear raised from the surface, not integrated. All of this suggests that the signature was a later addition. Did Remington add his signature at a later date? Is The Way Post the work of another artist? Do we have a forgery on our hands? This mystery remains unsolved.

Detail of Remington’s signature, The Way Post

Remington’s artwork was in popular demand even during his lifetime, selling for high prices. With so much value attributed to a work by Remington, many have attempted to forge the artist’s signature or “enhance” a painting in order to increase the artwork’s market value. Remington scholar Peter Hassrick once speculated that there may be more Remington forgeries than of any other American painter. Whether altered by his own hands or at that of another, Remington’s artwork can sometimes leave us with more questions than answers.

Gateway to the West

Named after Louis IX of France, St. Louis is a city filled with history. Now home to Anheuser-Busch and the Gateway Arch, St. Louis was once home to some of our SRM artists: Charles Russell, Oscar Berninghaus & Herbert Herget.

Downtown St. Louis. Image courtesy Timothy K Hamilton.

Born in St. Louis in 1864, Charles Marion Russell grew up in Oak Hill at his family’s manor-style house near present-day Tower Grove Park, a site of picnics and Sunday gatherings for the best families of St. Louis. For Russell, it was a great area in which to ride his horse. Once a rural plantation, Oak Hill was a suburb of St. Louis by the time Russell and his family moved to the area, welcoming the development around them. His father, Charles Silas Russell, was president of the local Parker-Russell Mining & Manufacturing company, a leading maker of industrial fire bricks. St. Louis was a city mostly made out of bricks, with over 80 brickyards in town by 1870. The Russells expected Charlie to join the family business or go to college. Instead, Charlie headed out west to Montana to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a cowboy.

Charles M. Russell, Cowpunching Sometimes Spells Trouble, 1889, Oil on canvas, 26 x 41 inches

Russell visited his family from time to time, which would have afforded him the opportunity to explore the exhibits at the 1904 World’s Fair hosted in St. Louis, where Russell had a few of his own paintings on display.

Russell was not the only SRM artist at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Oscar Berninghaus had two designs selected for the fair’s medal competition. Before he became one of the founding members of the Taos Society of Artists, Berninghaus spent his formal years in St. Louis, where he was born in 1874. Like Russell, Berninghaus began his art-making at a young age, sketching local scenes around town. He left school to become a lithographer, eventually working for Woodward & Tiernan, the city’s leading commercial printing firm. Berninghaus also completed illustrations for the local Anheuser-Busch Brewing company and painted several works for the Busch family throughout his career, many of which can be found today in the St. Louis Art Museum.

Anheuser-Busch Brewery. Image courtesy Katherine Johnson.

Oscar E. Berninghaus, The Forty-Niners, Before 1942, Oil on canvas, 26 1/4 x 36 1/4 inches

Audiences may be less familiar with another artist in our collection, Herbert Herget. Herget was born in St. Louis in 1885. Like Russell and Berninghaus, Herget enjoyed making art at a young age, drawing inspiration from the reproductions of Frederic Remington’s paintings published in popular magazines of the day. After attending public schools in St. Louis, Herget spent six months studying sculpture before he decided to pursue painting. His first serious training as a painter took place at the Washington University School of Fine Art. Later, Herget spent several years serving as an apprentice and illustrator for the publishers Woodward & Tiernan, the very same printing firm at which Berninghaus began his commercial art career. Today, the historic Woodward & Tiernan building in St. Louis is transitioning into loft-style apartments.

Woodward and Tiernan Printing Company. Lithographic retouching department. Photograph by W.C. Persons, 1926. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. NS 34596. Scan © 2006, Missouri Historical Society.

Workers in the Finishing Department at Woodward and Tiernan Printing Company, 1926. Photographer: W.C. Persons. Collection: Industrial Buildings. Image Courtesy of Missouri History Museum, St. Louis.

Who else at our museum has ties to St. Louis? Our museum director, Mary Burke! Having grown up in the Gateway City, Mary is familiar with many of these artists’ old haunts. For the past two decades, Mary has worked to preserve and share Sid’s legacy through the museum’s collection and education programming.

What Makes Thunder?

Remington depicts “thunder fighters” of the Sioux Nation not only braving a storm, but braving their own fears to chase off the big black thunder bird whose beating wings filled the air with roaring. The painting was originally intended as an illustration in the 1892 edition of Francis Parkman’s The Oregon Trail.

Frederic Remington | The Thunder-Fighters Would take Their Bows and Arrows, Their Guns, Their Magic Drum | 1892 | Oil on wood panel | 30 inches x 18 inches

Francis Parkman (1823-1893) was born into a well-to-do Boston family. In April of 1846, just out of Harvard Law School at age 23, Parkman and his college friend and relative, Quincy Shaw, departed from Westport, Missouri on a journey of western travel and adventure. Despite being in poor health (dysentery, cramps and dizziness – oh my!) for much of the nearly 6-month journey, Parkman traveled 2,000 miles of prairies, deserts and mountains, coming into contact with emigrant trails. The Oregon Trail is the author’s reflection (and, in some cases, exaggeration) of his travels.

The first edition was published in 1849. For his 4th edition, Parkman asked Frederic Remington to illustrate its pages. Remington accepted.

My dear sir: As you know, I am to illustrate your “Oregon Trail.” You paint men very vividly with your words and I imagine I can almost see your people. I shall never be able to fill your mind’s eye but if I manage to symbolize the period, I shall be content. Trusting that I may hear from you shortly, I have the honor to be very respectfully yours, Frederic Remington.  (January 5, 1892)

Frederic Remington | The Thunder-Fighters Would Take Their Bows and Arrows, Their Guns, Their Magic Drum | 1892 | line engraving | Parkman, Francis. The Oregon Trail, 1892, p. 112

Remington’s image illustrates a scene described in Chapter 14, “The Ogillallah Village.” Parkman and his travel companion, Raymond, enter an Ogallala Sioux village, where the two men meet an acquaintance named Reynal, a French Indian trader. Reynal serves as interpreter between the two men and the members of the village. Parkman and Raymond, guests of the village, have been moving from lodge to lodge to taste the foods their hosts set before them. After a meal of boiled buffalo meat and other foods, a thunderstorm that had been threatening strikes, which spurs Parkman to ask:

“What is it?” said I, “that makes the thunder?”

“It’s my belief,” said Reynal, “that it’s a big stone rolling over the sky.”

“Very likely,” I replied; “but I want to know what the Indians think about it.”

So he interpreted my question, which produced some debate. There was a difference of opinion. At last old Mene-Seela, or Red-Water, who sat by himself at one side, looked up with his withered face, and said he had always known what the thunder was. It was a great black bird; and once he had seen it, in a dream, swooping down from the Black Hills, with its loud-roaring wings; and when it flapped them over a lake, they struck lightning from the water.

“The thunder is bad,” said another old man, who sat muffled in his buffalo-robe; “he killed my brother last summer.”

Reynal, at my request, asked for an explanation; but the old man remained doggedly silent and would not look up. Some time after, I learned how the accident occurred. The man who was killed belonged to an association which, among other mystic functions, claimed the exclusive power and privilege of fighting the thunder. Whenever a storm which they wished to avert was threatening, the thunder-fighters would take their bows and arrows, their guns, their magic drum, and a sort of whistle made out of the wing-bone of the war-eagle, and, thus equipped, run out and fire at the rising cloud, whooping, yelling, whistling, and beating their drum to frighten it down again. One afternoon a heavy black cloud was coming up, and they repaired to the top of a hill, where they brought all their magic artillery into play against it. But the undaunted thunder, refusing to be terrified, darted out a bright flash, which struck one of the party dead as he was in the very act of shaking his long iron-pointed lance against it. The rest scattered and ran, yelling in an ecstasy of superstitious terror, back to their lodges.

Compare the illustration with the painting as it exists today at the museum. Do you notice how they differ?

When you visit the painting in our galleries, you’ll see that Remington eliminated the figure in the background, softened the shadows and added a design on the drum, which resembles a drum in the Remington Studio Collection at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

Crow Drum | ca. 1880 | pigment, wood, rawhide, lacing, string | Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming

The original painting showed the three figures shooting and beating the drum to frighten the cloud down to the earth. In the first version, Remington included a third man standing behind the other two discharged his musket into the sky. Later, as seen today, the artist painted over the third figure, simplifying the composition.

Millie in Montana

In 1907, Charlie Russell painted Utica, also known as A Quite Day in Utica, a scene that is anything other than quiet. This work was a commission by the Lehman family, who had owned the general store in Utica, Montana. By this point, the family had moved to Lewiston and were wanting their former customer, the now-famous cowboy artist, to paint a picture to be used on a calendar to advertise their family store in Lewiston.

Every figure in this painting is said to be identifiable, but today I want to focus on just one. In the doorway of the general store is the owner, Charles Lehman. Next to him on his right is an African American woman, Millie Ringgold, a freed slave and prospector in the area.

Charles M. Russell | Utica (A Quiet day in Utica) | 1907 | Oil on canvas | 24 1/8 inches x 36 1/8 inches

Charles M. Russell | Utica (A Quiet day in Utica) | 1907 | Oil on canvas | 24 1/8 inches x 36 1/8 inches

Millie Ringgold was a gold prospector, boarding house proprietor, and long-time resident of Yogo City, just down the road from Utica. How did this self-made businesswoman find her way to central Montana?

Millie was born a slave near Chestertown, Maryland in 1845. It’s likely that she remained a slave until Maryland finally abolished slavery on November 1, 1864. After spending time in the D.C. area as a nurse for the military and working for a family, she boarded a steamboat in 1878 and traveled up the Missouri, landing in Montana. Two years later, Millie joined the Yogo gold rush in the Little Belt Mountains in Central Montana.

maps.google.com

Little Belt Mountains, maps.google.com

ringgold link to Billings Gazette

A photocopy of a photo showing Millie Ringgold in front of what is believed to have been her restaurant, bar and boarding house along Yogo Creek in the Little Belt Mountains. Billings Gazette.

After settling in Yogo City, Millie opened a boarding house, where she experienced profitable business until the gold rush boom went bust in the early 1880s. Despite this bust, Millie continued to run her boarding house. It’s said that any traveler who wrote about Millie raved about the immaculate house and dining room, which was complete with white linen and polished silver. Even though the town was nearly deserted, she kept her boarding house in good shape.

In addition to running her boarding house, Millie supplemented her income by washing for prospectors, raising some chickens and turkeys, and cooking or nursing for ranchers from time to time. If money was tight, Millie relied on the aid of her cat, George Washington. The cat could catch a rabbit for both Millie and her cat to enjoy.

Millie Ringgold

Millie Ringgold

 

Sid Richardson MuseumThe 1900 federal census listed Millie Ringgold as a prospector-owner. She never lost faith in the Yogo mines. Until her death in 1906, she continued to live alone and work her mining claims in Yogo City, sometimes hiring the help of an African American man, believed to be Abraham Carter, the only other black resident of the Yogo District listed in the 1900 census.

Likely to have encountered Ms. Ringgold during his early days in the Judith Basin, Charles Russell paid tribute to Millie Ringgold in his 1907 painting.

 

 

Keep Calm and Trail Drive On

*After the Civil War, there was a need to connect the ranchmen of Texas Longhorn cattle with the feeders and packers in northern U.S. By the 1870’s, Texas began to assume its preeminence as a source of American food, particularly beef. As such, moving cattle from grazing lands in Texas to rail terminals was an annual job.

The new Kansas Pacific railroad brought an opportunity to set up new markets for Texas cattle in northern states. Promotional maps and pamphlets were printed in large numbers between 1871 and 1875 praising the benefits of using the railroad’s services to fill the government’s demand for cattle. These “promotionals” were used to advertise the Kansas Pacific Railway, enticing drovers from the shipping centers of rival railroads, but also to promote certain towns over others.

Our current exhibit, Hide & Horn on the Chisholm Trail, features a map, guide, and book that would have been used by cowboys and cattle businessmen during the late 19th century.

MAP

Kansas Pacific Railway Company | The Best and Shortest Cattle Trail from Texas | 1873 | Map | The Rees-Jones Collection

Kansas Pacific Railway Company | The Best and Shortest Cattle Trail from Texas | 1873 | Map | The Rees-Jones Collection

On prominent display in our galleries, the map shows various cattle routes from points in Texas to Camp Concho where the L.B. Harris Trail begins and to Red River Station, which is shown as the beginning of the Ellsworth Trail.

The map was the brainchild of Englishman William Weston (1844-1920), a mining engineer who was in the area at the time railheads were competing for the cattle trade.

Maps like this one and their subsequent printed guides were distributed complimentary in Texas by the Kansas Pacific railroad’s agents and others.ellsworthThis particular map showcases the town of Ellsworth, Kansas, depicting its railhead as the most convenient by providing easy access to markets both east and west.Railroad arrows

Red arrows along the top show the direction of the Kansas Pacific and the towns in Kansas that were railheads. These towns included Ellsworth, Russell, Fort Hays, and Ellis.map correction 1

Viewers visiting our exhibit will see that the map on display has a few corrections and notes in blue ink, which were done by Texas historian-antiquarian Alexander Dienst, Jr., commenting on the crossing at the Leon River.

 In 1890 on the banks of the Leon River. The path cut deep in the steep bank of Leon was plainly visible where cattle went down the bank. The crossing at Leon River was at same place where wagon bridge spans Leon between Temple and Belton.

Alex Dienst

Temple, Texas

map correction

Dienst moved the town of Hamilton to the northwest and then moved Gatesville to where Hamilton had been placed.

When not in use, the map was folded into a stitched paper wrapper and inserted into the guide book.

GUIDE BOOK

Guide Map of the Great Texas Cattle Trail, from Red River Crossing to the Old Reliable Kansas Pacific Railway, Kansas Pacific Railway Company, St. Louis, MO: Levison & Blythe, 1873, Rees-Jones Collection

Guide Map of the Great Texas Cattle Trail, from Red River Crossing to the Old Reliable Kansas Pacific Railway, Kansas Pacific Railway Company, St. Louis, MO: Levison & Blythe, 1873, Rees-Jones Collection

The guide book includes a narrative and guide table. The narrative details the route and the conveniences it offers for drovers:

The abundance of grass and water; absence of ticks and mosquitoes, and the abolishment of taxes heretofore exacted by the different tribes of Indians, are facts too well known to incorporate in this article.

guidebooktable1

The narrative is followed by a guide table, which includes valuable information such as the distance between each stop, details about streams and crossings, camping grounds, good sources of water, wood, supply stores, etc. Pretty handy on a cattle drive, right?

BOOK

James Cox | Historical and Biographical Record of the Cattle Industry and the Cattlemen of Texas and Adjacent Territory | 1895 | Book | The Rees-Jones Collection

James Cox | Historical and Biographical Record of the Cattle Industry and the Cattlemen of Texas and Adjacent Territory | 1895 | Book | The Rees-Jones Collection

This compendium on Texas cattle and cattlemen is one of the rarest of Texas books. It is over 700 pages long. The first half of the volume provides some of the best accounts of the history of the Texas cattle trade.  The second half has nearly 400 pages devoted to biographies of 449 Texas cattlemen.

In addition to featuring cattlemen, the biographical section is also a great source of biographies about women in the cattle country of Texas. Many of the women were married to ranchers and participated in the business. However, some women had to forge their own way without a husband.Lucinda Dalton

As part of our Hide & Horn exhibition, these objects provide a tangible representation of an ephemeral period in Texas history, a time of “The Cowboy, As He Was, And Is, And Is Supposed to Have Been.”

*Research collected and compiled by Shelle McMillen.

 

Hide & Horn

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the legendary Chisholm Trail. Named after the Scot-Cherokee trader, Jesse Chisholm, the trail was a major route for Texas livestock. In its brief existence, the cattle drive era amounted to the greatest migration of livestock in world history, with more than 5 million cattle and 5 million mustangs moving from Texas ranches to northern markets. As waypoint along the trail, Fort Worth experienced economic growth and developed a unique Western heritage as a result.

The Best and Shortest Cattle Trail from Texas, Kansas Pacific Railway Company, St. Louis, MO: Levison & Blythe, 1873, Rees-Jones Collection

The Best and Shortest Cattle Trail from Texas, Kansas Pacific Railway Company, St. Louis, MO: Levison & Blythe, 1873, Rees-Jones Collection

The Sid will join the three-state (Texas, Oklahoma & Kansas) 2017 celebration of the Chisholm Trail with a cattle trail-era focus exhibition, Hide & Horn on the Chisholm Trail. The exhibit will feature collectors’ items about the greatest migration of livestock in world history. On loan from the Rees-Jones Collection in Dallas, visitors will view an 1873 trail map and guidebook for drovers, one of the four most important books on the cattle industry, and one of the best books about the Texas Longhorn cattle breed during the 19th century.

Guide Map of the Great Texas Cattle Trail, from Red River Crossing to the Old Reliable Kansas Pacific Railway, Kansas Pacific Railway Company, St. Louis, MO: Levison & Blythe, 1873, Rees-Jones Collection

Guide Map of the Great Texas Cattle Trail, from Red River Crossing to the Old Reliable Kansas Pacific Railway, Kansas Pacific Railway Company, St. Louis, MO: Levison & Blythe, 1873, Rees-Jones Collection

Historical and Biographical Record of the Cattle Industry and the Cattlemen of Texas and Adjacent Territory, James Cox (1851-1901), St. Louis, MO: Woodward & Tiernan Printing Co., 1895, Rees-Jones Collection

Historical and Biographical Record of the Cattle Industry and the Cattlemen of Texas and Adjacent Territory, James Cox (1851-1901), St. Louis, MO: Woodward & Tiernan Printing Co., 1895, Rees-Jones Collection

The Longhorns, J. Frank Dobie (1888-1964), Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1941, Inscription by J. Frank Dobie to Sid Richardson, March 12, 1942, Sid Richardson Museum

The Longhorns, J. Frank Dobie (1888-1964), Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1941, Inscription by J. Frank Dobie to Sid Richardson, March 12, 1942, Sid Richardson Museum

Hide and Horn on the Chisholm Trail opens Friday, January 6.

The Story of the Cover

Our current exhibition features a painting by artist Shannon Stirnweis.

Shannon Stirnweis | Lonesome Dove | 1985 | Oil on canvas mounted on wood panel | The Wittliff Collections, Alkek Library, Texas State University

Shannon Stirnweis | Lonesome Dove | 1985 | Oil on canvas mounted on wood panel | The Wittliff Collections, Alkek Library, Texas State University

Look familiar? This is the image that graced the original cover of the 1985 publication of Larry McMurtry’s novel Lonesome Dove. How does an artist develop a book cover design? Our research volunteer, Shelle McMillen, spoke with Mr. Stirnweis to learn more.

Shannon Stirnweis has had much experience working in the book publishing industry, having produced several book covers for Western literary authors like Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. One day, Stirnweis received an assignment from a publisher along with a copy of the Lonesome Dove manuscript. Stirnweis read the story to find inspiration for what he would represent on the cover. The artist created three drafts, each different compositions, within a period of two weeks, which was longer than the amount of time he would typically spend on developing a concept.

Shannon Stirnweis | Lonesome Dove Book Jacket | Book | The Wittliff Collections, Alkek Library, Texas State University

Shannon Stirnweis | Lonesome Dove Book Jacket | Book | The Wittliff Collections, Alkek Library, Texas State University

The publishers were attracted to Stirnweis’ color sketches that included the trail herd and Gus’s tent. His final painting illustrates the tent and campsite Gus assembled for Lorie after she was abandoned by her travel partner, Jake Spoon. Crouched in the far left corner of the composition is Blue Duck, the notorious bandit from Gus and Call’s Texas Ranger days. The scene foreshadows the impending danger of Lorie’s kidnapping and the ensuing hardships Gus will endure to rescue her. Trailing in the background is the ongoing adventure of Captain Call and his cattle drive as they remain steadfast in their journey to Montana.

What do you think? Did Stirnweis capture the essence of Lonesome Dove? They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words. Or in the case of the hundreds of pages of Lonesome Dove, 365,712 words to be exact.

Lights. Camera. Action!

Our current exhibit, Lonesome Dove: The Art of Story, traces the path of Lonesome Dove from Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel to the original screenplay and filming of the legendary TV miniseries. Included in the display of The Wittliff Collection’s film production archives are original and facsimiles of storyboards. But what is a storyboard and why are they important to the making of a movie?IMG_7017

Michael Peal | Facsimiles, Storyboards for Stampede Scene | The Wittliff Collections, Alkek Library, Texas State University

Michael Peal | Facsimiles, Storyboards for Stampede Scene | The Wittliff Collections, Alkek Library, Texas State University

Michael Peal was the storyboard artist for the Lonesome Dove miniseries. Growing up, Peal loved movies and drawing, which eventually led him to study film and art in college. One of his first forays into the film industry came in the 1970s when Peal met Bob Burns, the art director for Texas Chainsaw Massacre, whom Peal assisted during the film’s pre-production. Later, Michael worked as the storyboard artist for films like the Coen brothers’ Blood Simple and Red Headed Stranger, which was written and directed by future Lonesome Dove screenplay writer and co-executive producer, Bill Wittliff.

What is a storyboard? It is a sequence of drawings representing the movement of the story, all seen from the camera’s point of view. Storyboards are typically part of the pre-production process. As a storyboard artist, Michael worked closely with the director of Lonesome Dove, Simon Wincer, turning the general narrative of the screenplay into a visual story.

What is the purpose of a storyboard?

  • Problem solving – save money, anticipate needs, people and equipment. For example, in the case of Lonesome Dove, the storyboards helped established a clear idea of how many head of cattle and horses are needed for each shot.
  • Creativity – ideas, to tell a story – creatively. Storyboards are the last opportunity to make the most of a story, visually and dramatically, before the director is on the set, where time is money on a big scale.
  • Communication – all department heads get a copy of the storyboards in advance of production so they will know what is expected of their departments for the scenes.

Storyboards are still used in film productions to this day.LD_22_1a_01

LD_22_1a_01v

Michael Peal | Sketches, Stampede Scene | 1987 | No. 2 pencil on Strathmore 80# smooth paper | The Wittliff Collections, Alkek Library, Texas State University

Michael Peal | Sketches, Stampede Scene | 1987 | No. 2 pencil on Strathmore 80# smooth paper | The Wittliff Collections, Alkek Library, Texas State University

The Cowboy Chronicles

Trail drives were a big but short-lived venture. After the Civil War, there was a brief period in which millions of cattle were driven from Texas to northern markets, traveling over the vast open range. Historians estimate that cowboys drove 6-9 million head of cattle from the Lone Star state to Kansas between 1867-1886. With the introduction of barbed wire, the expansion of railroads, and the development of meat packing plants near ranching areas, epic cattle drives like the one documented in the story Lonesome Dove were no longer necessary.

Rarely do we have the opportunity to hear firsthand from someone who lived through this defining era of the American cowboy. In 2001, a journal written by Jack Bailey was discovered in a private home in Oklahoma City. The journal was quickly shared with the staff at Donald C. and Elizabeth M. Dickinson Research Center at National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, who later transcribed the text for publication. Bailey Journey

Jack Bailey’s journal is a day-by-day account of life on a cattle drive as he traveled from North Texas to Kansas to deliver a herd of cattle to market in the fall of 1868. He encounters physical hardships, injuries and malaise, as well as the everyday tedium of routine. Bailey even questions his decision to join the drive in the first place! Typically, most cowboys on a trail drive were in their twenties. Jack Bailey was 37 when he chronicled his 3-month odyssey.pg46 & 47Bailey Quote

Lonesome Dove: The Art of Story

Tomorrow our new exhibit Lonesome Dove: The Art of Story opens to the public. This exhibition celebrates Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning tale and traces the path of its development from McMurtry’s first drafts to the original movie script to the legendary miniseries.

Lonesome Dove: The Art of Story | exhibition poster | ( Poster Image: Lonesome Dove from JJ Pumphrey General Merchandise Store | Cary White (1948-) | Fall, 1987 | Sandblasted rough-sawn lumber, house paint | The Witliff collections, Alkek Library, texas State University )

Lonesome Dove: The Art of Story | exhibition poster | ( Poster Image: Lonesome Dove from JJ Pumphrey General Merchandise Store | Cary White (1948-) | Fall, 1987 | Sandblasted rough-sawn lumber, house paint | The Witliff collections, Alkek Library, texas State University )

For the first time ever, Lonesome Dove Collection works from the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University, San Marcos will travel to Fort Worth. Our galleries will display materials from the filming and production of the Lonesome Dove miniseries, including producer Bill Wittliff’s annotated screen play, storyboard sketches, and set and costume drawings.

How true to life is Lonesome Dove and its tale of life on the trail? Visitors will discover the grit and grim reality of cattle drives as they virtually flip through the pages of Jack Bailey’s Cowboy Journal, a rare Texas cowboy’s diary of a cattle drive in 1868, on loan from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

 

Jack Baily Journal, 2001.074, Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

Jack Baily Journal, 2001.074, Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

Exploring the story elements shared in the written and visual depictions of the 19th century American West, the exhibition brings together four of Frederic Remington’s most iconic paintings. From Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum comes The Fall of the Cowboy, painted in 1895. Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum will loan the 1908 painting The Stampede. From the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, comes the 1908 painting Fight for the Waterhole. Those three join the Richardson’s own Remington masterpiece, Buffalo Runners – Big Horn Basin, from 1909.

Frederic Remington | The Fall of the Cowboy | 1895 | Oil on canvas | Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Amon G. Carter Collection

Frederic Remington | The Fall of the Cowboy | 1895 | Oil on canvas | Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Amon G. Carter Collection

The exhibition will open to the public at noon on January 15. Admission is free. Join us as we celebrate the story of the American West in art, literature, and film!