Book Review Eighteen
"He wore his careful finery, and from his wide hat-brim to his jingling heels made something of a figure-as self conscious and deliberate a show as any painted buck in council or bull-elk among his aspiring cows; and out of town in the mountains, as wild and dangerous as buck or bull knows how to be."
Owen Wister |
"A sunset lingering in the West, a cow grazing on a distant hill..it was all a part of my growing. It is an inseparable part of me still."
In the latter part of 2004 and early 2005, two books were published possessing the quality and depth that match their selected subject. "Western Traditions, Contemporary Artists of the American West" and "Fine Art of the West" represent a renewed interest in the art of the American West.
"Western Traditions" co-authored by Michael Duty and Suzanne Deats seeks to extend the legacy of Charles M. Russell and Frederic Remington by profiling contemporary artists who are actively pursuing the western genre. Before you allow yourself to view the 300 color plates, take time to study the brief biographies of the artists listed in the back of the book. Under the glossary are addresses and websites of museums, art centers and even one notable art show and sale-the Mountain Oyster Club Art Show in Tucson, AZ. For those interested in adding to their private collections, this is an invaluable resource. "Western Traditions" focuses on two main parts, essays on eight artists by Duty and thirty-eight profiles written by Deats which were gathered from interviews from living artists. Compared to previous western art volumes, much more attention is given to drawings and paintings of women and to female artists. Native Americans are represented in traditional scenes but are balanced by softer pastels of Indian artifacts. In pages illustrating the cowboy in the latter twentieth century, longhorns have been replaced by white-faced Herefords and the faces of the cowboys themselves seem less weathered. These two sections are supplemented by a chapter on the Wagon Train Monument that is under construction in Omaha, Nebraska as well as a nineteen page chapter on the lives of Russell and Remington. Duty does an outstanding job of establishing their preeminent place and lasting influence among today's western artists.
"Fine Art of the West" by B. Byron Price is an excellent example of not being able to truly assess the worth of a book until you have held it in your hands. In its review, Library Journal characterized "Fine Art" in the following way: ".this gorgeous book stands out from other books about cowboy apparel because of its artistic viewpoint and anecdotes." The word apparel in this context is meant to cover not only boots, hats, gun holsters and spurs but just as importantly saddles, bridles and ropes. On the front cover is a photograph of a silver "San Fernando" saddle from the Mort and Donna Fleischer collection in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Fleischer collection provides the majority of the large number of objects that are shown within the book's 276 pages. (Unfortunately the Fleisher collection is currently in storage awaiting a permanent location.) Mr. Price is a knowledgeable expert on his chosen subject. He currently serves as the director of the Charles M. Russell Center at the University of Oklahoma and has served as past director of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. For those who are interested, Price details the history behind the evolution of the numerous objects worn or used by the cowboy from the mid-1800s to the present. However if you decide to ignore this aspect of the book, I think you will still be extremely impressed by the level of craftsmanship captured by the excellent photographs. "Fine Art" also includes current information on the status of such well known companies like Justin and Stetson. One of the criteria that I judge a book by is the amount of research that the author has put into it. Ten pages of notes and bibliography in this large book provides further study if the reader desires it.
One of the ways the Library purchases books is through those who donate money given in memory of a friend or relative. Unless a patron provides a specific title, we make the selection. Over the years, Dr. Lester Porter has consistently and generously remembered his friends and the Library with his gifts. "Fine Art" is one of the most impressive books that I think we have at the Library. "Fine Art" was delivered to the Library shortly after the passing of Patrick Malone. The Malone and Porter families are longstanding citizens of Laurens County whose contributions, strength of character and spirit match the excellence found on the pages of "Fine Art".
In Memory of Patrick Malone
Dr. Lester L. Porter