Grand Teton
Historic Resource Study
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Picturing Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park (continued)
By William H. Goetzmann

The number of artists, professional and amateur, who have painted in Jackson Hole is incalculable. Some names are unfamiliar: Jenny Mabey, John Fery, Charles Chapman, a prolific artist and influential teacher, Ulysses Dow Tenney, Quita Pownall, Charles Partridge Adams, a prominent Denver artist who painted the Tetons on one occasion, but roughly 800 paintings of Colorado. Others like Gilbert Munger of the Federal Lithographic Bureau who made the chromolithographs for Clarence King's Systemic Geology (a key U.S. 40th Parallel Survey volume) are barely known even to scholars. A few, such as J. D. Hutton and Antoine Schonborn, who accompanied Capt. Raynolds in 1860, made some pencil sketches and watercolors that have survived at Yale. [34]

Harrison Crandall, who found some time in the 1920s to paint beautiful panoramic views of the Teton Valley, will ultimately be remembered for his careful color renditions of 32 different species of wildflowers to be found in the valley. His work in this respect was more than a hobby, it was of prime importance to the United States Biological Survey. These delicate paintings represent an ecological cross section of the valley, circa 1920-40. [35]

That grandiose painter of the scenic West, Albert Bierstadt, traveled west on a wagon road trip to the Wind River Mountains with Frederick West Lander in 1859-60. Then he made a visit to Yellowstone Park in 1881, part of a three-month journey through the West. As a result, at least six paintings of the Tetons and Jackson Hole are attributed to him. They have titles like Teton Range, Moose, Wyoming, when there wasn't a Moose, Wyoming, at the time, and Rainbow on Jenny Lake, Teton Range, Wyoming, a garish and sentimental work possibly derived from stereographs taken by his brother Charles, a Niagara Falls photographer who made stereo pictures throughout the West. Other views, entitled Grand Tetons, In the Tetons and Landscape with Waterfall, Study for Scenery in Grand Tetons seem inaccurate. Certainly none capture the stunning majesty of the Tetons, which, if he had actually seen them, might well have soared to five or ten miles high. According to the best authorities, Bierstadt invented his Tetons, Jenny Lake and its rainbow, and Moose, Wyoming. [36]

The Three Tetons
The Three Tetons by Thomas Moran, 1895. Moran's painting of the Tetons from the Idaho side now hangs in the Oval Office of the White House, facing the president. The White House

The other "grand" painter of the Tetons was Thomas Moran. Between August 21 and August 29, 1879, escorted by Capt. Augustus Bainbridge, some troopers of the 14th Infantry and some Indian scouts, he made an excursion from Fort Hall, Idaho, along Teton Creek west of the Tetons, hoping to cross over into the Snake River Valley. He never made it, despite being guided by local Indians. On August 23 he wrote in his diary while still west of the Snake River Range, "The Tetons are now plainly visible but not well defined owing to the mistiness of the atmosphere. They loom grandly above all the other mountains." [37] He was at least 22 miles away. By the 25th he could note in his diary, "The Tetons have loomed up grandly against the sky. From this point it is perhaps the finest pictorial range in the United States or even N. America." Later in the day he wrote, "This afternoon we made sketches of the Teton Range but the distance, 20 miles, is rather too far to distinguish the details, especially as it is very smoky from fires in the mountains on each side of the peaks." The next day he came upon Beaver Dick Leigh and his wife Jenny. They were trapping beaver. On the 27th it rained. They started their return on the 28th; on the 29th of August, Moran's notebook diary ends. The wonder is that Moran was able to produce at least four decent sketches of the Tetons. One sepia-colored watercolor is known to have been done on the 26th. It views the distant Tetons across a vast plain and over an intervening mountain range. Another watercolor, The Tetons is painted from a point very near the place where William H. Jackson had made his photograph on a ledge high up on Table Mountain. It is a dramatic, snow-covered storm scene rendered by Moran in blue and white. It is possible that this sketch was, in fact, influenced by Jackson's photograph. Later, possibly in 1890, when he was participating in the U.S. Indian census, Peter Moran, Thomas's brother, also painted a substantial multi-colored watercolor 12 x 18-inch view, Grand Tetons View, that now hangs in the Roswell Museum, Roswell, New Mexico. [38] More recently, a number of Moran pencil sketches have been on display at the Natural Wildlife Museum just outside of Jackson, Wyoming. They are from the collection of the Grand Teton National Park Visitor Center near Moose, Wyoming.

It is unfortunate that neither Bierstadt nor the Morans really got into Jackson Hole and thus we have no grand "Big Picture" by any of them of the face of the Grand Tetons. An 1895 oil painting by Moran of the Tetons, from the Idaho side, does hang in the Oval Office of the White House, facing the president. There are three other oil paintings of the Tetons by Moran: The Teton Range (1897), The Teton Range (1899), and the recently discovered Solitude (1899). The latter appears to have first been a depiction of the Rocky Mountains that Moran converted to a Teton picture by simply painting the three Tetons in white above the Rockies' horizon line. Solitude and the other Teton paintings were clearly based on the field sketches, though the foreground, a rushing river and part of Lake Solitude, resembles the foreground of his painting of the Mount of the Holy Cross. As Moran got older his western scenes became more standard and dependent on much earlier work. Both Bierstadt and Moran missed the chance of a lifetime, though Moran, on his return trip from Pierre's Hole west of the Tetons eventually made numerous sketches of the majestic cliffs of the Green River from which he made many salable paintings. Family lore has it that his daughter used to say, "whenever we needed money, papa painted another Green River."

Grand Tetons View
Grand Tetons View by Peter Moran. Peter Moran (who was Thomas Moran's brother) probably created this watercolor painting in 1890, when he participated in the U.S. Indian census. Permanent Collection, Roswell Museum and Art Center

Because these two famous grand landscapists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries never entered the Valley of the Tetons, they missed one of the great subjects for the landscape artist—one that with its many colored foliage and majestic peaks would have been almost perfect for their talents and romantic spirit. By contrast, perhaps in compensation, we do have one grand panoramic drawing of the Teton Valley by the West's foremost topographic artist, William H. Holmes, most famous for his breathtaking scientific renditions of the Grand Canyon to accompany Capt. Clarence Dutton's Tertiary History of the Grand Canyon District (1881). Holmes's wonderful panorama of Teton Valley appears in the portfolio Maps and Panoramas that accompanied F. V. Hayden's last Report of the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories (1878). [39] Holmes would later become the Director of the Bureau of American Ethnology, though he was also a significant artist and an expert on structural geology. His observations made John Wesley Powell's Report on the Geology of the Eastern Portion of the Unita Mountains (1876) a classic, and he painted a splendid view of a laccolith formation or giant dome that constitutes the basic formations of both Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. Holmes's panoramas of the Tetons and the Wind River Mountains should be prominently displayed at the Grand Teton National Park Visitor Center. Their stark but quintessentially accurate views provide a welcome alternative to the romantic paintings by lesser artists of the valley, even those of that often celebrated painter, William Robinson Leigh, a colorist who painted the Tetons in 1911 and who was clearly influenced by other Moran paintings. Leigh accompanied a Cody, Wyoming, taxidermist on his Teton expeditions. [40]

The Teton Range
William H. Holmes was one of the great topographic artists of his time. A member of the 1878 Hayden expedition, Holmes created this panoramic view of The Teton Range from Upper Grosventre Butte. US. Geological Survey (Maps and Panoramas, Twelfth Annual Report of the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories, 1878).

Holmes's panoramas also stand in contrast to the popular work of Conrad Schwiering, who for many years was "The Painter on the Square" in Jackson. Honored by the National Cowboy Hall of Fame's Trustees Gold Medal "for your outstanding contribution to Western Art," Schwiering, a pupil of Charles Chapman, mentioned at the outset of this section, is an impressionist who has probably painted more than 500 Jackson Hole and Teton Mountain scenes. [41] He never tired of painting the Tetons because, due to changing light values and seasons, the mountains are "never static." Indeed, if one spends enough time studying the Tetons, they come to remind one of Japan's sacred Mount Fujiyama; they change colors from the time the mists rise in the morning until the evening sun sets upon them. Japanese artists never tire of painting Mount Fuji, while painters like Schwiering have to explain their fascination with the Tetons. From his gallery at the Wort Hotel in the center of Jackson, especially during its gambling heyday, Schwiering sold his paintings to countless celebrities and movie stars as well as tourists, just as Hank Crandall sold many a painting to the dudes of the twenties and thirties. As recently as August 29, 1997, modernist cowboy artist, Bill Schenck, opened his "The Teton Series" at the Martin Harris Gallery in Jackson. Schenck, who specializes in irony, painted Donald Duck against a stage-painted Tetons background, suggesting a theme of post-modern unreality.

Perhaps the dean of all so-called "cowboy artists" was John Clymer who, recently deceased, was a long time resident of Teton Village. Clymer's later works were history paintings, and one who is knowledgeable of his work cannot cross the bridge over the Snake River on the road to Wilson without noticing the familiar Snake River sandbar upon which Clymer placed a series of stages of composition (one sketch after another, adding more detail each time) of his painting of the mountain men heading up the "Platte River" [sic] to illustrate to students just how he went about composing his western history paintings. He was a generous man and history painters like Tom Lovell and Kenneth Riley are in his debt as are movie makers of a certain era. [42]

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Last Updated: 24-Jul-2004