Cowboy artist’s paintings on display in North DakotaThe art genre called “cowboy art” includes a small number of regional artists and a grand list of craftsmen. Regional artists are not included in art school textbooks, so unfortunately not all artists known in an area are recognized beyond their own corners of the world.
By: Sharon Cox, The Jamestown Sun
The art genre called “cowboy art” includes a small number of regional artists and a grand list of craftsmen. Regional artists are not included in art school textbooks, so unfortunately not all artists known in an area are recognized beyond their own corners of the world.
Regionalists rarely show beyond that area, unless a donation is made to a small museum. Sometimes a collection is shown here and there, but rarely is it collected by the state and loaned. That is just what happened with one of North Dakota’s regional artist’s work.
Einar Olstad’s paintings are folksy as well as fine. His art work is considered regional and topical, and (depending on the timeframe or subject) some might consider it almost comical. For sure the faces and costumes might be termed caricature.
North Dakota has a collection of his work and houses it in state-owned facilities where art pieces can safely be displayed.
His painted pieces document the evanescent enthusiasm of an adolescent boy’s dream-world. Instead of being able to follow his love of painting from his youth, he became a blacksmith by default: his dad died and the son took over his father’s business in order to keep his family above water. He worked in metals as a sculptor/blacksmith and painted.
His subjects include the pioneer, cowboy, dust storms, buttes and desolate prairies of North Dakota, animal and farm themes, drought motifs, death and activities in the landscape. His cattle drives and solitary farmers drew much praise.
According to information written online by Ben Nemenoff and distributed by The North Dakota Council on the Arts, Olstad was born 134 years ago in Lillehammer, Norway on March 7, 1878. His family immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Sioux Falls, S.D. when he was a year old. He died one day short of his 77th birthday.
He was hired in 1937 by WPA, through the State Historical Society of North Dakota, to do a metal rider on a rearing horse to be used at the entrance of the then developing Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Lettering that he designed and forged was used throughout the park.
Although largely self-taught, Olstad and his wife Bessie moved in 1940 to Wisconsin in order for him to attend a term at the Layton School of Art. They would return there in 1947 to study art again.
His work was displayed in 1939-1940 in New York at the World’s Fair. He was the object of articles in “The National Geographic” as well as a Minneapolis magazine. He would have a number of one-man shows during his lifetime and received the Citation Award in 1951, adding his name to the Honor Roll of the American Artists Professional League.
Olstad’s art was installed over Valentine’s Day last month and will be displayed in the temporary gallery at the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center at Fort Buford (23 miles west of Williston on Highway 1804) through April 2014. The interpretive center is open year around and has interpreters on hand every day but Monday and Tuesday, when MYCIC is closed. It is open for tours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during winter and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. during summer hours.
If anyone has an item for this column, please send to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.