Category Archives: From the Vault

Happy Birthday, William R. Leigh!

Today marks the birthday of another SRM artist, William Robinson Leigh. Of the painters who gained fame as delineators of the American West around the turn of the century, Leigh is routinely cited as the most thoroughly trained. He studied at the Maryland Institute in Baltimore at the age of 14 and left for Germany a few years later to attend the Royal Academy in Munich.

William R. Leigh | Bears in the Path (Surprise) | 1904 | Oil on canvas | 21 1/8 x 33 1/8 inches

William R. Leigh | Bears in the Path (Surprise) | 1904 | Oil on canvas | 21 1/8 x 33 1/8 inches

In 1900, after having met the American landscape artist Thomas Moran and hearing of the artist’s appeal for more native art rather than imitations of foreign styles, Leigh confirmed his interest in the West. Leigh wished to paint what he thought to be uniquely American, and for Leigh, the West embodied everything that was intrinsically American. But it was not until the artist was nearly 40 that he was able to pursue his boyhood dream of painting the American West.

In 1906, Leigh traveled to New Mexico. The artist fell in love with the desert country and returned to the Southwest every summer for the next three years. Beginning in 1910, Leigh also accepted invitations to join hunting trips to the Yellowstone region and the high ranges of the Rockies. It was during these journeys to the West when Leigh had his first encounter with American Indians of the Crow and Sioux tribes.

In the thirties, Leigh also wrote articles, plays, and short stories while teaching at the Art Students League and the New York Evening School of Industrial Art. Leigh continued to paint scenes of the West, with the works of his last fifteen years to be considered among his greatest. Formally recognized by the National Academy of Design, Leigh was given the title National Academician in 1955, days before his death. Leigh died on March 11, 1955, after a productive morning of painting.

William R. Leigh | The Hold Up (The Ambush) | 1903 | Oil on canvas | 32 3/4 x 22 3/4 inches

William R. Leigh | The Hold Up (The Ambush) | 1903 | Oil on canvas | 32 3/4 x 22 3/4 inches

Happy Birthday, Edwin!

Today marks Edwin Willard Deming’s birthday, another artist in our collection. Born on a family homestead in Ohio in 1860, E.W. Deming grew up on the prairie lands of Illinois. As a child, Deming experienced his first encounter with Native Americans when the Winnebagoes would travel down from Wisconsin to hunt and trap nearby.

Edwin W. Deming | Indians (Indian Attack) | c. 1910 | Oil on canvas | 20 1/8 x 28 1/8 inches

Edwin W. Deming | Indians (Indian Attack) | c. 1910 | Oil on canvas | 20 1/8 x 28 1/8 inches

In the late 1880s, Deming went to live with the Crow Indians near Little Bighorn River, the site of the infamous defeat of General Custer. The artist made many studies of the Crows and their homes and land. Thus began the next thirty years of traveling among Indian groups all over North America, becoming friends with the likes of Gall, a Sioux leader, and Rain in the Face, Flying By, Iron Tail, Big Moon, the Cheyenne chief, and others. Deming even received Sitting Bull’s permission to photograph one of the dances of the Ghost Dance ceremony.

The artist was much beloved throughout his career and made friends with many, including former president Theodore Roosevelt, who was a collector of Deming’s work. His paintings were placed in many well-known public institutions during his lifetime, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum, the Smithsonian Institute, and the American Museum of Natural History, which had commissioned the artist to complete a series of murals for their Plains Indian Room. Often known as “the painter of the Indian soul,” Deming painted in an Impressionist manner and imbued his canvases with a diffused softness. The artist also worked in sculptures and produced several bronzes of wildlife and Native Americans. In 1934, Deming became the first living artist to have a painting reproduced on a U.S. postage stamp.

Edwin Willard Deming, Moose Hunt, Oil on Canvasboard, 1924, 33.875" x 60.25", Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955, Courtesy Gilcrease Museum

Edwin Willard Deming, Moose Hunt, Oil on Canvasboard, 1924, 33.875″ x 60.25″, Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955, Courtesy Gilcrease Museum

Deming is the focus of a current exhibition on display at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Art with Purpose features 30 works from the museum’s collection. Illustrating the evolution of social thought and perceptions of Native Americans, Deming’s work reveals a man who painted with purpose to capture the daily life of these cultures. To learn more about the exhibition, visit the Gilcrease website.

Edwin Willard Deming, Return of the Lone Survivor, Oil on Canvasboard, 1924, 23.625" x 33.875", Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955, Courtesy Gilcrease Museum

Edwin Willard Deming, Return of the Lone Survivor, Oil on Canvasboard, 1924, 23.625″ x 33.875″, Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955, Courtesy Gilcrease Museum

Edwin Willard Deming, The War Song, Dakota, Oil on Canvas, 43.75" x 71.875", Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955, Courtesy Gilcrease Museum

Edwin Willard Deming, The War Song, Dakota, Oil on Canvas, 43.75″ x 71.875″, Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955, Courtesy Gilcrease Museum

Happy Birthday, Frank!

Today marks SRM artist Frank Tenney Johnson’s birthday (1874-1939).

Although he spent much of his career in New York and California, Frank journeyed through Texas on several occasions, including his 1930 appearance at the annual Southwestern Exposition and Fat Stock Show in Fort Worth.

Previously, during the summer of 1921, en route to California on one of their many automobile excursions from New York, Frank Tenney Johnson and his wife Vinnie stopped in Texas. The artist had promised to personally deliver a painting that was purchased by Frank S. Hastings, manager of the SMS Ranch in West Texas. Earlier, Frank had made a drawing that became the frontispiece of Mr. Hasting’s autobiography, A Ranchman’s Recollections.

Frank Tenney Johnson from A Ranchman’s Recollections by Frank S. Hastings (Chicago: The Breeder’s Gazette, 1921)

Frank Tenney Johnson from A Ranchman’s Recollections by Frank S. Hastings (Chicago: The Breeder’s Gazette, 1921)

The sprawling SMS Ranch was named after the Swedish Svante Magnus Swenson, who came to Texas in 1838. After becoming a successful merchant in Richmond and Austin, Mr. Swenson purchased land grants out on the West Texas frontier. By the late 1870s, his two sons began developing the land. At the time of Frank Tenney Johnson’s visit, the SMS Ranch consisted of over 400,000 acres and covered parts of nine counties.

The news of the couple’s arrival in Stamford, Texas made it into the local newspaper. The story was even sent as a special dispatch and immediately published in the New York World. The Johnson’s stayed at the ranch, providing the artist with a wealth of lively material from which to sketch and photograph. In fact, several of the SMS cowboys and horses appear in his later paintings. One of his favorite models was a descendant of the Swenson family, the brawny A. M. G. “Swede” Swenson, who had been a star of the University of Texas football team.

Happy Birthday, Gilbert Gaul!

Today marks William Gilbert Gaul’s birthday (1855-1919).

Like another artist represented in the museum’s collection – Peter Moran – Gaul served as a special agent in 1890 for the eleventh census, focusing on American Indians in the United States. In particular, the artist observed the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Reservations in North Dakota.

The census of 1890 was the first to use automated processing methods, which reduced the amount of time involved in charting the results, from eight years for the 1880 census, down to one year for the 1890 census. Out of a population of over sixty million residents, the census revealed that about 250,000 American Indians were living in the United States, a number that was quickly diminishing. The decline of this native population garnered national attention, with the designation of special agents assigned to the Indian portion of the eleventh census. As one of those special agents, Gilbert Gaul, along with other artists, documented the tribes and the people he encountered, capturing his observations in both photographs and paintings.

William Gilbert Gaul, Sioux and Wife, Semi-civilized, 1890. Report on the Indians Taxed and Not Taxed in the United States (except Alaska) at the Eleventh Census, 1890. Department of the Interior, Census Office. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1894.

William Gilbert Gaul, Sioux and Wife, Semi-civilized, 1890. Report on the Indians Taxed and Not Taxed in the United States (except Alaska) at the Eleventh Census, 1890. Department of the Interior, Census Office. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1894.

William Gilbert Gaul, Sitting Bull, 1890. Report on the Indians Taxed and Not Taxed in the United States (except Alaska) at the Eleventh Census, 1890. Department of the Interior, Census Office. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1894.

William Gilbert Gaul, Sitting Bull, 1890. Report on the Indians Taxed and Not Taxed in the United States (except Alaska) at the Eleventh Census, 1890. Department of the Interior, Census Office. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1894.

During his visit, Gaul painted from life a portrait of Sitting Bull, completed just months before the chieftain’s death.

William Gilbert Gaul, Sioux Camp, 1890. Report on the Indians Taxed and Not Taxed in the United States (except Alaska) at the Eleventh Census, 1890. Department of the Interior, Census Office. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1894.

William Gilbert Gaul, Sioux Camp, 1890. Report on the Indians Taxed and Not Taxed in the United States (except Alaska) at the Eleventh Census, 1890. Department of the Interior, Census Office. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1894.

What the artist witnessed was a changing culture. Gaul notes in his report that:

The day of buffalo robes and buckskins is passing away. With the Sioux breechcloths are no more. The Indian is no longer a gaily bedecked individual. Most of his furs and feathers have disappeared simultaneously with the deerskin. When he lost his picturesque buckskins he had to make his leggings of army blankets, red and blue.

Recording exactly what he saw, as demonstrated in the artist’s painting, The Pow-Wow, Gaul portrays the transition these tribes were undergoing. Rather than perpetuate a romanticized myth, the artist conveys the realities of reservation life, as these buffalo-hunting warriors of yesteryear have become dependent on government rations. Tipis, once made of hide, were now constructed with canvas or muslin. The painting shows the growing infiltration of Western society – the wagon, coffee pot, and kettle – as Native American traditions were gradually becoming relics of the past.

William Gilbert Gaul, The Pow-Wow, c.1890, oil on canvas, 18 1/8 x 24 1/8 inches

William Gilbert Gaul, The Pow-Wow, c.1890, oil on canvas, 18 1/8 x 24 1/8 inches

Happy Birthday, Charlie!

“I have hade several birthdays myself some it’s a wonder I lived through but they say joy never kills an I Guess this is true caus Iv swollowed enough joy to drowned a cow on sevral occasions.” – CM Russell to Paris Gibson, June 29, 1916

Today marks Charles Russell’s birthday. By the time Russell died in 1926, he had established a career as an artist of the American West, leaving a lasting legacy in painting, watercolor, and bronze. In addition, Russell was a devoted author of correspondence, producing more than 500 letters, most of which were illustrated. Because expressing himself through writing was a challenge (the rules of spelling, punctuation, and grammar were not the artist’s forte), he resorted to pictures to convey his sentiments, as seen in the Sid Richardson Museum’s Maney Snows Have Fallen. . .

Charles M. Russell, Maney Snows Have Fallen. . .(Letter from Ah-Wa-Cous (Charles Russell) to Short Bull), c. 1909 – 1910, Watercolor, pen & ink on paper, 8 x 10 inches

Charles M. Russell, Maney Snows Have Fallen. . .(Letter from Ah-Wa-Cous (Charles Russell) to Short Bull), c. 1909 – 1910, Watercolor, pen & ink on paper, 8 x 10 inches

Russell writes:

Many snows have fallen since the Blackfeet and Sioux smoked, and the grass has grown long in the trail between their fires. But if Short Bull comes to the lodge of the Antelope the pipe will be lit and robes spread for him. The Antelope has spoken.

Russell signs the letter with his Blackfoot name “Ah-Wa-Cous,” which translates to Antelope. Earlier in his career, in 1887-1888, it is believed Russell spent time near Alberta, Canada living among the Blood Indians, a subgroup of the Blackfeet. When Charlie had visited, he was still working as a cowboy, and as such was wearing wool trousers that had been patched or reinforced with light-colored buckskin. These reinforced pants were popular in the early days and gave the rider a good grip on their saddle, eliminating the need for chaps. The shape, color, and location of the buckskin on Charlie’s backside reminded the American Indians of the antelope, thus the name Ah Wa Cous.

Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926), untitled sketch, n.d., graphite (C.M. Russell Museum, gift of Richard Flood II)

Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926), untitled sketch, n.d., graphite (C.M. Russell Museum, gift of Richard Flood II)

Written with great imagination, the letter demonstrates the artist’s sense of humor and his love for the American Indian culture. Reserved only for a special few among his friends, Russell would sometimes portray himself as a Plains Indian and his recipient – likely an Easterner – another Native tribe. In this case, the artist has depicted himself and his wife as Blackfeet, extending the welcoming pipe to two Sioux visitors, or “Short Bull.” The Sioux and Blackfeet were often enemies on the American frontier. Smoking the peace pipe, a sacred tradition for Plains Indians, was commonly used to confirm treaties and agreements.

Charles M. Russell, When Blackfeet and Sioux Meet, 1908, Oil on canvas, 20 1/2 x 29 7/8 inches

Charles M. Russell, When Blackfeet and Sioux Meet, 1908, Oil on canvas, 20 1/2 x 29 7/8 inches

The identity of “Short Bull” is unknown. A possible correspondent could have been Jim Gabriel, a performer with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, with whom Russell was acquainted. Gabriel also spent time during the Sioux wars as a courier for General Nelson Miles.

Happy Birthday, Peter Moran!

Today is Peter Moran’s birthday. While his brother, Thomas Moran, has long been recognized as one of the premier painters of the American landscape, Peter Moran has received less attention, partly due to the lack of primary source material available. Like his brother, Peter was drawn to the West and traveled to that region on many sketching trips, resulting in paintings like Indian Encampment, in the museum’s collection.

Peter Moran, Indian Encampment, c. 1880-1881, Oil on panel, 12 7/8 x 31 inches

Peter Moran, Indian Encampment, c. 1880-1881, Oil on panel, 12 7/8 x 31 inches

Overtime, Peter Moran garnered a reputation as an accomplished etcher of animals. In particular, cattle were omnipresent in his work, a motif familiar to those of us here in Cowtown. During the late nineteenth century, images of cows resonated with an American audience who recognized that the traditional way of life these domestic cattle signified was rapidly vanishing. Working in a nation transformed by industrialization, Moran’s works evoked nostalgia among his buyers who would reserve these etchings for the parlors of their urban homes.

Peter Moran (American, born England, 1841-1914) Spring, 1875 Etching Plate: 91 x 142 mm (3 9/16 x 5 9/16 in.) The Baltimore Museum of Art: Garrett Collection, BMA 1946.112.12814 Photography By: Mitro Hood

Peter Moran (American, born England, 1841-1914), Spring, 1875, Etching, Plate: 91 x 142 mm (3 9/16 x 5 9/16 in.), The Baltimore Museum of Art: Garrett Collection, BMA 1946.112.12814, Photography By: Mitro Hood

Sid Richardson also witnessed the decline of another American landscape, that of the Western frontier developed by the cattle drives and ranches whose empire rested on the rugged Texas Longhorn. Starting as early as the 1870s, ranchers were importing Longhorns from the British Isles, producing much heavier cross bred cattle. By the 1920s, the remaining Texas Longhorns were facing extinction as many were slaughtered during an effort to eliminate “tick fever.” Sid’s friends J. Frank Dobie, University of Texas professor and folklorist, and Graves Peeler, a renowned Texas Ranger, sought Mr. Richardson’s financial assistance in saving this dying breed. Later, Sid began a breeding program on his San Jose Island in 1940, first with Brahman and Shorthorn cattle, and then with Santa Gertrudis bulls. Together, their efforts helped ensure the survival of the Texas Longhorn.

Sid Richardson with bull Moneymaker on San Jose Island.

Sid Richardson with bull Moneymaker on San Jose Island.

Happy Birthday, Peter Hurd!

Today marks the birthday of Peter Hurd, born in 1904. A native of New Mexico, Hurd became a member of the famous Wyeth family after marrying the daughter of renowned illustrator N. C. Wyeth. Earning the distinction as one of the great painters of the Southwest, the artist was known for his work in the meticulous medium of egg tempera.

Hurd was acquainted with Sid Richardson before beginning work on his portrait. In Sid, Peter found a colorful and amusing old friend. Although the portrait was executed in Palm Springs, CA, the painting’s background depicts Richardson’s ranch in San Jose Island. Located off the coast of Rockport, TX, Sid bought the ranch in 1936 where the oilman and philanthropist raised Santa Gertrudis cattle. The museum’s portrait was made the year before Sid Richardson died in 1959.

Peter Hurd, Portrait of Sid Richardson, 1958, Oil on panel, 32 x 48 inches

Peter Hurd, Portrait of Sid Richardson, 1958, Oil on panel, 32 x 48 inches

Hurd had depicted Richardson’s likeness four years earlier, in 1954, for a mural at what was then Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University). The 1,300 square foot fresco mural depicts the history of Lubbock and the South Plains on the walls of what was then The Museum (now Holden Hall). Each panel includes figures of actual individuals to represent various professions typical of the pioneers who helped settle and build the region. Sid Richardson was chosen to represent the oil industry.Tech Mural of SR

Sid Richardson posing for Peter Hurd’s Mural of the Oil Industry at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX. Courtesy Fort Worth Star-Telegram Photography Collections

Sid Richardson posing for Peter Hurd’s Mural of the Oil Industry at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX. Courtesy Fort Worth Star-Telegram Photography Collections

Stock Show Spirit, Part Four

To complete our stock show series, today we’ll highlight the legend of the Fort Worth Stock Show and its connection to the Sid Richardson Museum collection.

One artist included in our current exhibition Western Treasures is Frank Tenney Johnson.  Like Remington, Johnson began his career as an illustrator for many popular magazines. He studied under the likes of Richard Lorenze, a well-known painter of Western subjects, and John Henry Twachtman of the Art Students League, New York.

Frank Tenney Johnson, Trouble On The Pony Express, ca. 1910 – 1920, Oil on canvas, 36 1/4 x 28 1/4 inches

Frank Tenney Johnson, Trouble On The Pony Express, ca. 1910 – 1920, Oil on canvas, 36 1/4 x 28 1/4 inches

Johnson exhibited in various institutions, including a one-man show at the Fort Worth Museum of Art (now the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth) in 1930, which then traveled to the Highland Park Society of Arts in Dallas.

Courtesy Genealogy, History, and Archives Unit, Fort Worth Library.

Courtesy Genealogy, History, and Archives Unit, Fort Worth Library.

The artist’s exhibition coincided with the nearby annual Southwestern Exposition and Fat Stock Show, where Johnson spent much of his time watching and sketching at the rodeo contests. On one occasion he wore a pair of chaps and had his picture taken for the newspaper. In the photo, the artist can be seen standing alongside the notorious “Midnight,” a big black outlaw horse that had never been “ridden” despite the many attempts by the best cowboys in the business.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, February 27, 1930. Courtesy the Genealogy, History, and Archives Unit, Fort Worth Library.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, February 27, 1930. Courtesy the Genealogy, History, and Archives Unit, Fort Worth Library.

Stock Show Spirit, Part Two

In part two of our celebration of the stock show spirit, we’ll continue our look at the Sid Richardson Bohlin Parade Saddle. In 1947, Amon G. Carter presented  the saddle and riding outfit to Mr. Richardson as a token of appreciation for the hard work he had done to help make the Fort Worth Southwestern Exposition and Fat Stock Show a success. In his correspondence with Edward Bohlin, Mr. Carter requested the same type of saddle as made for the King of Arabia. All ornaments were to be silver instead of gold, and the tapaderas, or covered stirrups, to display the silver initials of the rider.

(Left) Sid Richardson on horseback without his hat; van and loud speakers on roof behind him, 09/13/1947, det. (Right) Four men on hoses, left to right: Mayor Deen, Ernest Allen, W.R. Watt, Sid W. Richardson, 09/13/1947, det. Courtesy, Fort Worth Star Telegraph Photograph Collection, Special Collections, The University of Texas at Arlington Library, Arlington, Texas.

(Left) Sid Richardson on horseback without his hat; van and loud speakers on roof behind him, 09/13/1947, det. (Right) Four men on hoses, left to right: Mayor Deen, Ernest Allen, W.R. Watt, Sid W. Richardson, 09/13/1947, det. Courtesy, Fort Worth Star Telegraph Photograph Collection, Special Collections, The University of Texas at Arlington Library, Arlington, Texas.Silver details

Notice the fine details of beautiful silver decorations on Sid Richardson’s saddle. Bohlin used several different methods, including repousse and engraving. Repousse, a French word meaning “to push back,” can be seen on the front of the saddle with the concho, or largest round ornament (top left image). The metal was hammered on the underside, causing the main form of the horse head to be raised. Next, details are added by carefully pushing down the metal, which is called chasing, as seen on the horse’s mane. Around the concho Bohlin used engraving to create the beautiful floral designs. Engraving is achieved by delicately chiseling away the silver.Leather Tooling

Leather tooling is another way to add decoration to a saddle. After the leather was dyed and generously moistened, the basic shapes were carved into the leather piece with a swivel knife. Then beveller tools and a hammer were used to deepen the lines that were first made with the swivel knife, making the design look three dimensional (as seen in the right image). Beveller tools can also be used to add more detail to the designs, such as the flowers and curling leaves seen on Mr. Richardson’s saddle.

Stock Show Spirit, Part One

In honor of the 118th Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, we invite you to get into the stock show spirit with a visit to the Sid Richardson Museum to view our legendary collection of the art of the West. As part of an ongoing series during the stock show, today we’re highlighting a special piece of the museum’s collection: Sid Richardson’s Bohlin Parade Saddle outfit.

Edward H. Bohlin Company, Parade Saddle and Outfit, 1947 Saddle: Leather, sterling silver, stainless steel, mohair, wool fleece, wood Vest and Chaps: Leather, sterling silver

Edward H. Bohlin Company, Parade Saddle and Outfit, 1947
Saddle: Leather, sterling silver, stainless steel, mohair, wool fleece, wood
Vest and Chaps: Leather, sterling silver

This saddle was made by Edward Bohlin in 1947 (pictured below). At the young age of 17, the Swedish Bohlin pursued his dreams of becoming a cowboy and moved all the way to Montana where he quickly developed a passion for fine saddles. Shortly after opening a small leather-working shop in Cody, Wyoming, Bohlin began a career in show business, making boots, saddles, and other costume pieces for Western movies. His pieces were both functional and fashionable works of art.Edward Bohlin

Edward H. Bohlin, Inc. catalog, 1927. Courtesy, Cabin Creek Enterprises LLC, www.cabincreekcds.com

Edward H. Bohlin, Inc. catalog, 1927. Courtesy, Cabin Creek Enterprises LLC, www.cabincreekcds.com

A saddle is one of the most important pieces of cowboy equipment. Can you name some of the major saddle parts?Bohlin Saddle Diagram