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.

Cowboy Journals and the Art of Handwriting

Have you ever kept a journal or a diary? Did you ever travel with your journal?

In 1868, Texas cowboy Jack Bailey kept a journal of his experience on a cattle drive. It is one of the earliest known day-by-day, first-hand accounts of a cattle drive from Texas to Kansas during the period just after the Civil War.

The era of the cattle drive was a short-lived period, from about 1865-1895. But it is from this period of the open-range cattle industry that many of the myths, legends, or heroic concepts we have of cowboys today was derived.

It’s estimated that 6-9 million head of cattle were driven by cowboys from Texas to Kansas between 1867-1886. What do you think was the average age of the cowboys who drove these cattle?

Charles M. Russell | Breaking Camp | ca. 1885 | Oil on canvas | Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Charles M. Russell | Breaking Camp | ca. 1885 | Oil on canvas | Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Most of these cowboys were young men in their late teens early twenties. Jack Bailey was 37 yrs old when he ventured on his 3 month journey. Relatively speaking, Bailey was an old man doing a young man’s job.

How often do you find a cowboy who keeps a journal while on the job? The answer is not often. Most accounts of the cattle drive experience we have are recollections told decades later. The earliest known diary of a trail drive was kept by George Duffield in 1866, two years before Jack Bailey’s journey. But Duffield’s record contains little detail of the drive, only short summaries of each day’s activities. In contrast, Bailey’s journal is a narrative. He shares a story, the ups and the downs, sprinkled with a few humorous anecdotes.Bailey Journey

Bailey kept his journal in a small notebook, similar to the ones sold in drug and general stores in the West during the late 1860s. Aside from a few dates that are printed at the beginning of entries, everything else is written in black ink, perhaps iron gall.

Bailey’s writing consistently stays within the printed blue lines. Remember that he’s writing these entries while on the trail, not from the comfort of a desk at his home. Bailey’s penmanship is good, suggesting that he learned it in school, where he would have learned  Spencerian handwriting.

Do any of you remember learning cursive in school? Do you still write in cursive?

In the mid-1800s, abolitionist and bookkeeper Platt Rogers Spencer attempted to democratize American penmanship by formulating a cursive writing system, known as the Spencerian method, which was taught by textbook. Schools and businesses quickly adopted this form of handwriting, so much so that the Spencerian form of penmanship became the standard at time when an elegant handwriting was much prized.

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

IMG_7186How many of you still mail hand-written letters to friends/relatives and write notes to loved ones? Today, in our computer age, a fine, beautiful, and legible handwriting brings a warm personal touch to our correspondence. The museum recently hosted a program in which participants learned the principles of Spencerian script, practice their handwriting, and even learned how to fashion their own feather quill pen.

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Dedicated Docents: Jim

The Sid Richardson Museum docents are a special group of volunteers. In any given week, they may give a guided tour to a group of students, share our collection with a visiting group of adults, help lead activities during children’s programs, or enlighten guests during a special event.

The museum is starting up a new class of docents in Fall 2016. If you’re interested in joining our team, we will be posting more information on our website soon. Stay tuned!

For now, let’s continue our “Dedicated Docents” blog series. Today I’d like to feature our docent Jim.

Jim

SRM: What drew you to the Sid Richardson Museum?

Jim: I ran across an invitation posted in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for docents and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting to learn more about western art and share that with others!’

SRM: What do you want visitors to get out of the tour?

Jim: I would like to hope that visitors would learn more about the museum, the benefactor, the artists, the stories and the history the art tells us and what the period of the Old West was like.

SRM: What are some of your most memorable tour moments?

Jim: Tours are memorable and rewarding when the visitor(s) become involved with the moment and offer questions and responses.

SRM: How has being a docent changed you?

Jim: The docent experience has allowed me to grow in my appreciation of art – even toward modern art – and gives me fleeting thoughts to try painting.

SRM: What’s your favorite part of the job?

Jim: Continuing to learn every day and having the opportunity to share that new knowledge with others.

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

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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

Beef Bonanza!

The Texas Cattle Trail era is a mythological period of American history. The language and characters of the period have become part of our identity. You’ve heard of maverick politicians. Ever use the phrase “time to hit the trail?”

Cattle herd and cowboy, circa 1902

Cattle herd and cowboy, circa 1902

After the Civil War, the cattle business blossomed, largely by the booming industry in the north and reconstruction in the south. From 1867 to 1895, over 98,250,000 cattle trailed from Texas to northern markets. Beef was starting to replace pork as the country’s preferred meat product.

In 1867, Joseph G. McCoy, a visionary in the beef industry, began working with railroads like Union Pacific to build a rail spur in Abilene, Kansas, where he opened his operation the following year. McCoy advertised for northern cattle buyers and Texas cattle drivers. In his first season, 35,000 head of cattle passed through his depot. That number doubled the following year and doubled again by 1870. In 1874, McCoy penned the classic Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest, which scholars consider to be one of the most important books about the early cattle industry.IMG_6648

Joseph G. McCoy. Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest, By Joseph G. McCoy, the Pioneer Western Cattle Shipper. Kansas City, MO: Ramsey, Millett & Hudson, 1874.

Joseph G. McCoy. Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest, By Joseph G. McCoy, the Pioneer Western Cattle Shipper. Kansas City, MO: Ramsey, Millett & Hudson, 1874.

What was life like on cattle drives? A trail crew, or “outfit,” usually consisted of 10-12 men. The ideal size of a trail herd was about 2,500. Rather than race to the cattle depot, the trail boss made sure the herd kept a steady pace of 7-10 miles per day so as to keep the cattle plump for market.

One of the biggest dangers on the drive was crossing rivers. As the crew traveled north, the rivers became wider. Most men could not swim.

Cowhand, waddy, cowpuncher, vaqueros, buckaroos. These were the common names for what we now refer to as cowboys. Who were these men?

The species “cowhand” is no special breed of human; but he is a special type created by his special way of life. Perhaps, though, it does take a special kind of guy to choose to be a cowhand. The cowhand is possessed by a sort of pioneering spirit; he likes nature – that is, nature in the raw. He doesn’t mind taking a chance win or lose. He can take it on the chin and keep coming back for more. – Fay E. Ward

Cowboys came from Texas and everywhere else. The group was diverse: Black cowboys, Mexican cowboys, American Indian cowboys, British cowboys. It’s estimated as many as 20% of the cowhands were born outside the U.S.

James Sanks Brisbin | The Beef Bonanza: Or, How to Get Rich on the Plains | 1881 | Book | The Rees-Jones Collection

James Sanks Brisbin | The Beef Bonanza: Or, How to Get Rich on the Plains | 1881 | Book | The Rees-Jones Collection

By the 1880s, the landscape of ranches and the cattle business was changing. The trail industry was dissolving into the hands of larger ranches, often financed by British capital and other non-local entities. James Brisbin, vice-president of the National Cattle and Horse Grower’s Association, actively promoted investment. In 1881, Brisbin published The Beef Bonanza; Or How to Get Rich on the Plains. Historians consider this publication to be the most important promotional book to draw major financial investors from northern Europe and the East Coast to the cattle industry.

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 year 1885 marked an end of an era. With the invention of barbed wire, the development of railroads, overgrazing, settlers, what was once known as the “open range” was no more.

The Rare Breed

On Feb 2, 1966, The Rare Breed premiered in Fort Worth at Palace Theater, 117 E. 7th Street, the first of four pre-release showings of the film. The premier coincided with what was then called Fort Worth Fat Stock Show. An archive of the premier features Maureen O’Hara and James Stewart walking the red carpet to Fort Worth fanfare.

1968 photo courtesy of Larry Brown

1968 photo courtesy of Larry Brown

The film is directed by Andrew McLaglen, who is known for films like McClintock!, Shenandoah, Bandolero, just to name a few of his 31 feature films. In addition to film, Mr. McLaglen directed such television shows as Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, and Rawhide.

Buried in the credit of The Rare Breed is a name some movie fans might recognize. The music for The Rare Breed was scored by Johnny Williams, now known as John Williams, the composer of many film scores, including Jaws, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones.Hereford_bull_large

The Rare Breed is about the introduction of Hereford cattle to the American West. The Hereford breed – originally from Herefordshire, England – has been called “the great improver.” Texas cattle were tough, which was great for the rough terrain, but not so great for the meat. By crossbreeding with Herefords, folks hoped to improve the quality of Texas beef.

Charles M. Russell, When Cowboys Get in Trouble (The Mad Cow), 1899, Oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches

Charles M. Russell, When Cowboys Get in Trouble (The Mad Cow), 1899, Oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches

Interestingly, Herefords were first introduced to the US in 1817 by Henry Clay, the Kentucky statesman and orator. Unfortunately, Mr. Clay did not bring over enough cattle and bulls, so his Herefords were eventually bred out. Decades later, a number of important ranchers, including Charles Goodnight, brought Herefords to Texas and successfully began crossbreeding.

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!

Dedicated Docents: Ginger

Every week our galleries are filled with students, many of whom are experiencing their first visit to an art museum. Thanks to our group of volunteer docents, these children have an opportunity to discover how fun art can be!

Let’s continue our “Dedicated Docents” blog series. Today I’d like to feature our docent Ginger.
Ginger

SRM: What drew you to the Sid Richardson Museum?

Ginger: I had been a docent at the Amon Carter Museum in years past and in retirement knew I would enjoy being a docent again.

SRM: What do you want visitors to get out of the tour?

Ginger: I want adult visitors to know and appreciate Sid Richardson – the paintings in his collection, his love of the west, and his interesting life.  I want to offer school children the idea of looking at stories our collection tells, the way the west was and how it has changed, and knowing that they can have fun with art.

SRM: What are some of your most memorable tour moments?

Ginger: Just about any time I see a young hand raised, when a student is so very eager to tell me something they see about the painting.  One of the most rewarding experiences was perhaps a visiting group of visually impaired teens who enjoyed our museum so much and took such an interest in the artwork during our tour.

SRM: How has being a docent changed you?

Ginger: I believe that I am more proud of living in our western city because of what I have learned about the paintings and of the American West.

SRM: What’s your favorite part of the job?

Ginger: Getting to know and make friends with our group of docents – people perhaps I might never have had a chance to meet otherwise.  The Sid is my happy place.

Remington & Impressionism

*Iconic Western painter Frederic Remington began his career drawing black and white illustrations for the most popular magazines in America. Yet he yearned to be known as an artist, not just an illustrator, and he strategically drew inspiration from the museums and art galleries of New York City.  Friends with American Impressionist Childe Hassam and a number of young American painters, Remington first saw the work of Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro and other modern French painters at the newly opened Durand-Ruel Gallery whose owner became an early proponent of French Impressionism.

Following over a century of tradition, French Academic art valued paintings of history, religion, and mythology.  The Impressionists challenged this trope by painting modern life.  They were the first generation of artists to have access to newly-invented bright, artificial paints available in new collapsible metal tubes that freed them to work out of doors.  Using visible, flickering brushstrokes, they attempted to register their sensations to light and weather.

When Remington first saw this new art, he declared, “I’ve got two maiden aunts . . .  who can knit better pictures than that.”  Yet, Remington quietly admired the brighter palette, their theories of representing light, color and shadow. He started incorporating some of these techniques into his own work while maintaining his favored subject matter–his memories of the American West frontier.  For instance, in this detail of Buffalo Runners—Big Horn Basin, the shadows under the horses are the complimentary color of the dried grass in the foreground. Likewise, he knitted into the shadow small strokes of the reflected reddish-brown of the horses. Both of these ideas Remington adapted from the Impressionists.

Detail, Frederic Remington | Buffalo Runners - Big Horn Basin | 1909 | Oil on canvas | 30 1/8 x 51 1/8 inches

Detail, Frederic Remington | Buffalo Runners – Big Horn Basin | 1909 | Oil on canvas | 30 1/8 x 51 1/8 inches

At the same time, intrigued by the concept of painting believable night scenes, first introduced to American audiences by James McNeill Whistler, Remington attempted his own night scenes, or nocturnes.  By eliminating detail, limiting his palette to black, brown, blue, green and white, Remington gave us atmospheric paintings that became some of his most famous and cherished works.  Remington stated that he did his most difficult work outside the painting, and by doing so, he hoped to challenge the viewer to use their imagination.

In the painting, A Figure of the Night, Remington framed the rider and horse with a dark, impenetrable forest in the background and the shadows of unseen trees in the foreground.  The bright blue green ground reads as snow lit by moonlight.  The foreground shadows suggest the loneliness of the rider’s situation and the potential of hidden dangers ahead.

Frederic Remington | A Figure of the Night (The Sentinel) | 1908 | Oil on canvas | 30 x 21 1/8 inches

Frederic Remington | A Figure of the Night (The Sentinel) | 1908 | Oil on canvas | 30 x 21 1/8 inches

Today, Remington’s paintings serve as visual source material for modern film-makers and historians of the Western frontier. But Remington deserves to also be acknowledged as a fine, turn-of-the-century American artist who adapted ideas and techniques from other modern artists while remaining true to his passion for the West.

Frederic Remington, The Dry Camp, 1907, Oil on canvas, 27 3/8 x 40 inches

Frederic Remington, The Dry Camp, 1907, Oil on canvas, 27 3/8 x 40 inches

*Guest blog post written by Deborah Reed, independent scholar and presenter of Monet to Remington: Impressionism’s Influence on Remington’s Late Paintings (a lecture presented at the Sid Richardson Museum, November 2015).