American Bison: The Thundering Herd

Posted on 28 August 2018

Montana Living In the Arts: Thundering Herd

buffalo hunters art work montana living

Frédéric Theodore Lix, Indiens des Prairies Chassant le Bison, 1892, chromolithograph. Photo courtesy of Lee Silliman

Antique engravings part of Yellowstone Art Museum new exhibit

The Yellowstone Art Museum announces the opening of a new exhibit entitled The Surging, Thundering Herd: Vintage Bison engravings, 1758-1910.

These early artworks, drawn from the Lee Silliman Print Collection, are on a statewide tour under the aegis of the Montana Art Gallery Directors’ Association.  The exhibit features a cornucopia of 51 original engravings depicting the iconic mammal of the American frontier West—the buffalo. 
           
The engravings, spanning 152 years of art, were created by European artists who never saw the animal (they copied shamelessly), and by artists who witnessed these massive beasts in the wild before their near extinction in the 1880s.  The media include early copper plate engravings, wood engravings, chromolithographs, and early 1900s color lithographic postcards.

Some images are beautifully hand-tinted.  Many images were drawn from poplar 19thcentury American periodicals, such as Harper’s Weekly and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, as well as from other lesser known American and European publications.

The prints are mounted in handsome hardwood frames and are annotated with historical commentary. Prominent frontier painters whose derivative prints are featured in the exhibit include Frederic Remington, George Catlin, and Karl Bodmer. 
           
Many aspects of the bison story are illuminated in this exhibit: the animal in its wild state amongst its natural enemies; techniques for hunting the bison by Native Americans and whites; the centrality of buffalo in Native American culture; and the nearly total extermination of the bison in the late 1800s.  Images and commentary unite to paint the story.
 
The exhibition is on view August 16 – October 14, 2018.

In lieu of the museum’s usual opening reception, the public is invited to a lecture by Lee Silliman 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Thursday, September 6th. Lee Silliman is a retired educator and museum employee living in Missoula, Montana.  Since early childhood he has nurtured a strong interest in the art and history of the frontier American West.  His interests have spawned many articles and the editing of five books.  He has presented conference lectures, taught workshops, and led four educational group tours.  Since 1988 Silliman has assembled and circulated numerous fine art exhibits which have been displayed in one hundred venues throughout Montana and ten other states.

The exhibition and reception are free to museum members. The general public is encouraged to become members, but may also take advantage of all the museum’s exhibition offerings and other programs for a single admission fee.

Check the museum’s website for more details, www.artmuseum.org.

 

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