What’s In a Name?

Have you ever wondered how a painting gets its title? Sometimes a given title is straightforward, assigned by the artist at the time of production. But often over the intervening years, a painting’s “first title” can shift as it changes hands—a gallery might inadvertently begin calling it something slightly different; or it’s given a slightly different title in an exhibition; or from when it was titled by its creator to today, the painting becomes so distanced from its first title that research is required to get back to the original. In some cases, a title may change to follow shifting trends in culture or politics.

In 1888, Charlie Russell painted a snow scene showing two Anglo cowboys and five Sioux meeting in a blizzard. The work is known today as Lost in a Snow Storm—We Are Friends. Amon G. Carter acquired the work for his personal collection in 1950; thirteen years later, it earned notoriety as the only Western subject to hang in the Texas Hotel suite that John and Jackie Kennedy occupied that fateful night before our nation’s most notorious assassination. Ruth Carter Stevenson had earlier joined forces with other cultural leaders in town to give the President and First Lady a taste of art and culture, Fort Worth style.

1961-144_s.jpg ^Charles M. Russell (1864-1926), Lost in a Snowstorm, 1888, oil on canvas, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Amon G. Carter Collection

Since Lost in a Snow Storm was painted nearly 130 years ago, it has held several different titles. When Mr. Carter purchased the work from Findlay Galleries in New York, it was called Meeting in a Blizzard, a title first used in 1897. Two years prior, however, it was recorded as Lost in the Snow. By 1900, the painting was published under two different titles: Lost in a Blizzard and a Signal of Peace. When it was exhibited in 1963 at the Hotel Texas, the related brochure identified it as Meeting in a Blizzard. One year later, the title by which it is known today was attached to the picture.

The purpose of this blogpost is not about a first title. It’s to put forward an intriguing notion: One year after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a picture that had been chosen to display for him in his suite took on a more subjective meaning through its subsequent title challenge—a shift that might, in fact, point to the shared global grief that followed his traumatic death. The installation in the Hotel Texas suite underscored arts unifying purpose, creativity transcending politics. President Kennedy had famously said just a month before his assassination, “Art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.” I like to think that it took just a few months for the title of this painting to change from the simple declaration of a meeting to one of friendship in hopes of healing.

a2011-051-014.jpg ^Thomas Eakins, Swimming; Charles M. Russell, Lost in a Snowstorm. Second bedroom, Suite 850, Hotel Texas, Fort Worth, Friday, November 22, 1963. Photo by Byron Scott. Dana Day Henderson and Owen Day Papers, Amon Carter Museum of American Art

The Unconventional Genius of Charles M. Russell

In 2015, the Amon Carter published the final installment of its triad of major publications on the art of Charles M. Russell (1864–1926). The three volumes began in 1993 with Brian Dippie’s landmark work on Russell’s illustrated letters, Charles M. Russell, Word Painter, followed the next year by Rick Stewart’s opus Charles M. Russell: Sculptor.

The third volume—Charles M. Russell: Watercolors, 1887–1926—focuses on the artist’s watercolor output. Rick Stewart, who was the Amon Carter’s director for a decade, authored the principal essay in the book. In a companion essay, Jodie Utter, conservator of works on paper at the Amon Carter, conducted the first scientific study of Russell’s watercolor techniques and materials.

The book, 496 pages in length, is available exclusively from the Amon Carter’s store. The museum makes available online Utter’s essay, The Unconventional Genius of Charles M. Russell, which explores for the first time how the Cowboy Artist painted, in one of the most unforgiving of creative mediums, his beloved masterworks of the American West.

Snow Crystals

Similar to how Dornith Doherty explores the intricacies of seeds and other plant life using x-ray in the exhibition Dornith Doherty: Archiving Eden, W. A. "Snowflake" Bentley (1865–1931) used photomicrography to reveal the beautiful geometry of the snow crystal. For fifty years he photographed this ephemeral and delicate natural form, producing a large body of images that straddle art and science. Using a photomicrograph camera, Bentley patiently caught snowflakes on a piece of black velvet, carefully transferred the crystals to a glass slide, and photographed them through a microscope before they disappeared. Bentley photographed around 5,000 snowflakes during his lifetime and became an authority on the topic, writing, among other articles, the entry for "snow" in the fourteenth edition of Encyclopedia Britannica.

In 1931 Bentley and W. J. Humphreys (1862–1949), a physicist at the U.S. Weather Bureau, published a book that reproduces 2,500 of Bentley's snowflakes together with Humphreys' text on the science of snow crystals. Bentley died from pneumonia after walking home in a blizzard shortly after the book was published. The museum's library owns a rare copy of the first edition of Snow Crystals and is showing it in the reading room as a complement to the Dornith Doherty: Archiving Eden exhibition.

snow_crystals_-_title_page_and_frontispiece.jpg^ Frontispiece and Title Page from Snow Crystals (New York and London: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1931)

snow_crystals_-_cover.jpg^ Cover from Snow Crystals (New York and London: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1931)

Land of Promise or Peril?

We recently enjoyed an opportunity to collaborate with Texas Christian University. We have been digitizing our archives, and often the papers we’re working with are difficult to decipher due to age, condition, media, and orthography. The students in Dr. Theresa Gaul's American Literature seminar class transcribed our 200-year-old Andrew Bulger Papers, and they made some interesting discoveries. A selection of the students blogs will be posted to the museum’s feed over the next few days.

This post is by Whitney Lew James, a doctoral student in rhetoric and composition studying academic discourse and genres, translingual theory, multimodal pedagogy, community literacy, and disability studies.

–Jon Frembling, Archivist, Amon Carter Museum of American Art


^ “These unfortunate people who were principally mechanics with few professional men—had been led to believe they were coming to a much more settled place than the Colony really was in, a place where the people were prosperous and happy. Indeed many of them, who were in comfortable circumstances in their own country on reading the glowing description of the Red River Colony, sold their little properties, and with their families embarked for the ‘Land of Promise.’”—Andrew H. Bulger, Andrew Bulger Papers, Amon Carter Museum of American Art

The passage above is excerpted from a partial page in the Andrew H. Bulger Papers at the Amon Carter. A portion of the papers are Bulger’s drafts of the “Papers on the Selkirk Settlement Rupert’s Land,” which chronicle the history of the Red River Colony, which is in present-day Manitoba country but originally extended into Wisconsin in the United States. The settlement was originally sponsored by Thomas Douglas (1771–1820), the 5th Lord Selkirk, as a humanitarian effort for displaced Scots following the failed Jacobite rising. As the epigram indicates, Lord Selkirk, “friends of the colony” who encouraged emigration, and newly arrived settlers had high hopes for the colony.

The reality was very different. In other sections of the papers, Bulger documents the poor living conditions of the settlers: insects and birds ravaged their “little crops,” prairie fires destroyed their homes, correspondence with the homeland was greatly limited, and natives and fur traders warred over the lands, just to name a few.

Still, the fantasy of “prosperous and happy” communities and America as the “Land of Promise” pulled people to the colony. In fact, we retain many of the same idealized images of the first settlers of the United States. For the most part, we are told the same story of the Americas that Bulger reflects on here. That is, small groups of settlers seeking religious freedom traveled to North America by ship and, while they endured hardship, their industrious efforts led to prosperity, harmonious living, and the “American Dream” as we know it. While our national image of the first Thanksgiving has shifted to consider the complexity of the encounters between settlers and Natives, it is difficult to move away from ideas about who the settlers were and why they came. Bulger’s descriptions of the circumstances of emigration and settlement serve to complicate our understanding of exactly who built our country and under what conditions.

Elsewhere in the Bulger Papers he discusses a prospectus entitled “La Colonie de la Riviere Rouge,” which was “extensively circulated among the cantons of Switzerland, attracted much attention, and induced many families to emigrate,” even as reports from the colony were disappointing. Bulger writes that the false promises disseminated by Lord Selkirk’s agents were explicitly “made to increase the population of the settlement.” While the prospective settlers were deceived about the condition of Red River, those already settled in America expected different emigrants. Bulger writes that, “M. Macdonell [the first governor of the Red River Colony] was not too well please[d] with [German and Swiss emigrants], as they seemed to have been collected from the roving and unsettled class of people… and not likely to make good or industrious settlers.”

Thus, Bulger sheds light on an alternative narrative for immigration. Rather than individuals actively seeking out the Americas for religious freedom or other means of social mobility, at least some emigrants were specifically solicited and deceived in order to develop the colonies. Additionally, settlers that preceded the newest emigrants did not always welcome newcomers who did not fit their ideas about who could contribute to their community, a narrative that we see acted out on the national stage to this day.

While I have been unable to locate the prospectus that Bulger mentions in his papers, census data from the Statistical Review of Immigration 1820-1910 conducted by Mr. Dillingham of the Committee on Immigration does reflect a significant increase in emigration from Switzerland. In 1820, only 31 individuals emigrated from Switzerland, but in 1821 and 1822 emigration spiked to 93 and 110, respectively. While it remains unclear when the prospectus Bulger refers to might have reached the cantons, the hard work by Lord Selkirk’s agents was certainly paying off. Unfortunately, the individuals induced to emigrate abandoned settled lives in their homeland for difficult, unsettled, and precarious positions in the “Land of Promise.” Ultimately, Bulger’s papers provide one more piece of evidence that our romanticization of immigration and American settlement must be revised.

Robert S. Allen and Carol M. Judd, “Bulger, Andrew H.,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, eds. George W. Brown and Ramsay Cook (Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press, 1985)

J. M. Bumsted, "Red River Colony," in The Canadian Encyclopedia (Toronto, Ontario: Historica Foundation of Canada, 1985)

Reports of the Immigration Commission: Statistical Review of Immigration, 1820–1910; Distribution of Immigrants 1850–1900, S. Doc. No. 756 (1911).

Finding Native Voices in the Archives

We recently enjoyed an opportunity to collaborate with Texas Christian University. We have been digitizing our archives, and often the papers we’re working with are difficult to decipher due to age, condition, media, and orthography. The students in Dr. Theresa Gaul's American Literature seminar class transcribed our 200-year-old Andrew Bulger Papers, and they made some interesting discoveries. A selection of the students blogs will be posted to the museum’s feed over the next few days.

This post is by Sarah-Marie Horning, a doctoral student in English studying Southern women’s literature. She is also pursuing a graduate certificate in Women and Gender Studies.

–Jon Frembling, Archivist, Amon Carter Museum of American Art


^ [Andrew Bulger manuscript page], Andrew Bulger Papers, Amon Carter Museum of American Art

Reading much like something out of a James Fennimore Cooper novel, the materials that make up the Andrew Bulger Papers at the Amon Carter hold salacious, brutal, and touching tales of contact and conflict in the embattled spaces of early America and British Canada.

Though the papers are about Andrew Bulger and his exploits during the War of 1812, I found myself drawn in most by the stories of others in the letters. A family of Native Americans are found nearly starving to death in the middle of winter in Wisconsin. A traveling party of British soldiers works to cut their way through “a distance of at least one hundred and fifty miles” of thick ice.

In one especially dramatic scene, a traveling party is ambushed by their Sioux guides, a survivor of the ambush made “his way on his hands and knees” for a purported 24 miles back to the fort to name their attackers, and a series of violent retaliations soon followed.

As this especially complex and violent story of ambush develops, British, American, Sioux, Ojibwa, and other quasi-military and governmental groups all become implicated in a series of entangled alliances and conflicts. The War of 1812, in our popular imagination, is a conflict between America and British Canada. War broke out because of various underlying and proximate causes, but historians typically attribute the War of 1812 to a contest between American territorial expansion and British blockades of American trade routes.

Attempting to preserve their own communities amid these contests, Native tribes took sides in the conflict and were ultimately the ones who suffered most in the war.
But with names like “Gens de la Fucille Tiré” and “Follesavine,” I kept wondering “Who are these people?”

The problem happens because Native tribes were often given French and English slang terms as misnomers for tribal names. The misnomers happen in the Bulger letters because British and American colonists did not recognize Native sign systems. As I searched for the right names, I found myself increasingly interested in uncovering—at least for myself—the history hidden by the colonial practice of renaming. An especially interesting story came to me as I started to trace the “Follsavoines.” Folles Avoines, I eventually discovered with the gracious help of Jon Frembling, Amon Carter Museum library archivist, is not the name of a Native tribe at all. Rather, it is wild rice—a French slang descriptor for the food of the Ojibwa (Chippewa) tribe.

The Ojibwa, as early as the 1700s, had a rich network of trade with Europeans and Canadians, but this cooperation would prove tenuous. British and American imperialism continuously threatened Native tribes. In Pontiac’s Uprising in 1763, Ojibwas helped to reinforce a group of Ottawas, led by their leader Pontiac, in an attempt to take a fort in Michigan and turn back British colonizers who had displaced the French at the close of the French and Indian wars. By the early 1800s, the Ojibwa found themselves further threatened by American territorial expansion and provided aid to the British in the War of 1812 in the hope that they could resist American encroachment. The compromise came from a belief that their only hope of stemming further encroachments by American settlers lay with the British. Tragically, in a war that was not instigated by any Native tribe, scores of Native peoples fighting for both sides perished in the War of 1812.

However, the history of encroachment and battles for control of land in Wisconsin and around the Great Lakes for the Ojibwa (Chippewa) has far from subsided in the succeeding centuries since the War of 1812. The Wisconsin Chippewa tribe and the Red River Band are currently at the center of a very real territorial and political contest as they voted in January of this year to resist the renewal of an easement onto their land by the US government for the maintenance of the Enbridge oil pipeline that has been in operation on the tribal lands for more than 64 years.

William Berens, A. Irving Hallowell, et al., Memories, Myths, and Dreams of an Ojibwe Leader (Montreal, Quebec: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014)

Donald Fixico, A Native Nations Perspective on the War of 1812,” from The War of 1812

Michael Johnson, Ojibwa: People of Forests and Prairies (Richmond Hill, Ontario: Firefly Books, 2016)

Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. “Ojibwa.”

Circulating Myths in Early America

We recently enjoyed an opportunity to collaborate with Texas Christian University. We have been digitizing our archives, and often the papers we’re working with are difficult to decipher due to age, condition, media, and orthography. The students in Dr. Theresa Gaul's American Literature seminar class transcribed our 200-year-old Andrew Bulger Papers, and they made some interesting discoveries. A selection of the students blogs will be posted to the museum’s feed over the next few days.

This post is by Abigail Fransen, a Masters student in English at Texas Christian University. She is also pursuing a graduate certificate in Women and Gender Studies.

—Jon Frembling, Archivist, Amon Carter Museum of American Art

Pages 26–30 of the Andrew Bulger Papers take an interesting detour from the rest of the collection’s contents. These pages tell the story of a church bell from a British church in Colonial America taken hostage by the French yet later recovered by British through the help of neighboring Native Americans. Surprisingly, the entire section detailing the bell’s loss and retrieval had been copied verbatim from a short story, called “The Bell of St. Regis,” that circulated in periodicals during the mid-nineteenth century. While it would have been exciting to discover a new event in American history, I realized that this incident speaks to how national myths get circulated.

clipboard01_0.jpg^ Jean-Baptiste Scotin (1678–17__), Canadians Go to War on Snowshoes (ca. 1700), National Archives of Canada

First, there is some semblance of historical truth in “The Bell of St. Regis.” The events took place during the Deerfield Massacre of 1704, in which French and Indian forces attacked the British settlement of Deerfield, Massachusetts, an event which sparked Queen Anne’s War. Sixteen percent of the colonists at Deerfield were killed, and a third were taken captive. Several accounts of the raid have been published, including Rev. John Williams’s The Redeemed Captive (1707), in which Williams, a Puritan minister taken captive, argues that Deerfield’s moral laxity made it vulnerable to evil.

However, as multiple sources point out, there is nothing to suggest the specific events of “The Bell of St. Regis” actually took place. In 1870, George Sheldon, a member of the Massachusetts Historical Society, investigated various claims regarding the events and ultimately concluded that “Nothing, then, seems to me more likely than that Williams invented the alleged tradition of the Deerfield or St. Regis bell; but, however originated, it seems quite clear to me that the truth of the story is not sustained by the evidence now known." Williams here refers not to Rev. John Williams but Rev. Eleazer Williams, a Canadian missionary. Francis Parkman, an American historian and author, wrote of meeting Eleazer Williams and decided “The story of the ’Bell of St. Regis’ is probably another of his inventions.” Both Sheldon and Parkman agree that no evidence supports there being a bell at St. Regis or even that St. Regis had been founded as early as the Deerfield Massacre. Parkman does, however, give us a clue as to how the story got circulated. It appears American author Epaphras Hoyt heard Williams’s story and included his own version of it in his own series of Antiquarian Researches (1814). Canadian author John Galt then created his own version of the story, which was published in Fraser’s Magazine for Town and Country (1830). The story can be found in various other periodicals, often anonymously.

While we may not know how Bulger came across “The Bell of St. Regis” or why he decided to reproduce it in this way, its inclusion in his papers is important. For one, it shows how national myths get cultivated and dispersed. Second, Bulger’s interest in this myth, in the midst of his own relationship with French and Native American populations, shows how stories such as “The Bell of St. Regis” continued to be relevant in the United States, even a century later.

Howard H. Peckham, “Williams, John,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, eds. George W. Brown and Ramsay Cook (Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press, 1982)

George T. Davis, "May Meeting, 1870. Letter Relating to William Pynchon; 'St Regis. Bell,'" Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 11 (1869–1870): 311–321.

Francis Parkman, “The Sack of Deerfield,” in The Francis Parkman Reader, ed. Samuel Eliot Morison (New York, New York: De Capo Press, 1998): 389–390.

Writing on Historical Writing

We recently enjoyed an opportunity to collaborate with Texas Christian University. We have been digitizing our archives, and often the papers we’re working with are difficult to decipher due to age, condition, media, and orthography. The students in Dr. Theresa Gaul's American Literature seminar class transcribed our 200-year-old Andrew Bulger Papers, and they made some interesting discoveries. A selection of the students blogs will be posted to the museum’s feed over the next few days.

This first post is by Diana Bueno, a doctoral student in English studying American women’s writing and pursuing a graduate certificate in Women and Gender Studies.

–Jon Frembling, Archivist, Amon Carter Museum of American Art

As I sit here writing this blog post, I have the benefit of recent technology: a laptop, a word processor, and the especially useful “backspace” key, among other things. In reading this post, you will have very little sense of my writing process – you won’t know how many times I rewrote this sentence or what kind of computer or software I used.

Thirty years ago, I would be using a different kind of technology to draft this post: a typewriter, a ream of cheap wood-pulp paper, typewriter ribbon, and a bottle of White Out. Thirty years before that, I’d be at my desk with a fountain pen and ink reservoir, a bottle of ink, and perhaps some fine stationery. With these writing technologies, my writing process, writing instruments, and the kinds of paper and ink I used could be discerned.

As a researcher in an archive, touching the actual manuscript pages, feeling the grooves where the pen scratched the paper, seeing up close the blots and smears where the author’s pen flew across the page (or where it hesitated), smelling the slightly metallic scent of the ink, noting the folds and creases in the paper, all bring the author’s work to life, much like seeing a painting in real life brings insights that seeing a reproduction can’t. Experiencing these tactile, physical parts of the manuscript makes it is easy to imagine you’re Andrew Bulger, alive 200 years ago, preparing to write: huddled by the flickering fire, bent over the small, angled wooden desk inside your modest cabin, manuscript pages lit by the light of a lantern. Outside, winter winds howl and rattle the windows, but you’re focused, reflecting on your past, ready to put pen to paper. But what sort of pen? What kind of ink and paper?

bulger001.jpg^ [Paper binding for the Andrew Bulger manuscript], Andrew Bulger Papers, Amon Carter Museum of American Art

Writing in the early to mid-nineteenth century, Bulger likely would have used both quill pens and dip pens. Metal dip pen nibs date back to ancient Egypt, when they were made of copper and bronze. However, they were not the writing instruments of choice until Bulger’s time, around 1822; until then, long, hollow feathers from geese and turkeys were trimmed and filed to a calligraphic point, with a split channel down the center to facilitate ink running down to the page in a controlled line. With the advent of metal nibs, pens became mass-produced, cheaper, and easier to work with, since they didn’t require sharpening and breaking in like quills. Dates on some of his manuscript pages suggest that Bulger was writing after 1825, so it is possible that he composed at least some of his manuscript with a metal dip pen—certainly this instrument would have been more durable and transportable for a traveling governor and military man.

The ink he would have used, made with iron salts and tinged brown, could get messy, making it a challenge not to spill or drip. Bulger seemed particularly sensitive to the illegibility that repeated cross outs and revisions could create in the course of drafting, because rather than crossing words out and writing in the margins, he often crossed out whole passages or simply stopped and began again—or, interestingly, he would cut up a fresh sheet of paper and paste it over the offending lines, using the blank space to start again. This attention and diligence with regard to legibility suggests that Bulger was hyper aware of the audience that would find and read his papers—and perhaps reveals a characteristic attention to detail that might have made him a successful leader.

Bulger’s paper is not of particularly high quality. The pages don’t have watermarks or embossing, which would have been typical of fine stationery at this time. Instead, Bulger used a large quantity of affordable paper to pen his autobiography—paper that has nevertheless withstood the test of time, absorbing stains and creases but arriving intact at the Amon Carter in 2017.

For those of us studying Bulger, answering these questions of materiality is fairly straightforward, but these questions remain important for any archivist or researcher to ask. Materials reveal critical information about class, about literacy, about the lengths people will go to in order to communicate and write, and even about the author’s emotional connection to a piece of writing. I have heard archivists talk about finding tearstains on old letters between lovers or family members. The material conditions of Bulger’s papers may not reveal shed tears, but along with the content, they paint a clear picture of a diligent, literate, well-respected man devoted to chronicling his life in a clear and accessible way.

Quill Pen | How to Make Everything – a fascinating demonstration of how a traditional goose feather quill pen would have been produced in the 19th century.
Nigel Hall, “The Materiality of Letter Writing: A Nineteenth Century Perspective,” in Letter Writing as a Social Practice, eds. David Barton and Nigel Hall (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania: John Benjamins Publishing, 2000).
Preserving the Gettysburg Address – a Cornell archivist explains how they have preserved a famous mid-19th century document, based on knowledge of ink, paper, and pen used.

The Catch of a Lifetime

Last December, the museum unveiled a significant new acquisition—The Fisherman by George Bellows (1882–1925). Completed in 1917, the work captures Bellows’s genius as a colorist, blending and mixing pigment like a magician.

2016-9_s.jpg^ George Bellows (1882–1925), The Fisherman (1917), oil on canvas, Amon Carter Museum of American Art

My pleasure with this acquisition comes not only on its exceptional quality but also on my long relationship with the work. I first encountered the painting nearly ten years ago while visiting the private collection of a prominent St. Louis businessman. His passion for American art was infectious, and the Bellows’s painting proved to be a prized catch for him. As we stood before the painting, he told the story of his conquest in acquiring it. In 1988 Sotheby’s put the work up for auction, and he was perched for victory. But he was not the highest bidder in the end, and the work sold to a dealer for $1.4 million, more than five times the auction estimate. The following months proved a challenging time for the art market, so the collector waited patiently for the right moment. Approached by the dealer a couple of years later, he purchased the work without a markup. It is a whopper of a story.

bellows_collector.jpg^ George Bellows’s The Fisherman (1917) on view in the St. Louis collector’s house, ca. 2012

This collector was an avid fisherman, and had been since he was a child. In fact, most of his summers were spent alone on a trawler in the Atlantic seeking the catch of the day. Bellows’s picture spoke to that side of him, and his purchase of it paralleled his inherent fisherman sensibility. The work remained in his collection for thirty years until his death in 2013.

Afterward, a collector in New England acquired the work, then put it on the market last spring. The Amon Carter threw out a line and within a matter of months, the painting had been hooked and landed. It’s now on display in pride of place in the museum’s galleries. Come see what we caught!

"Thunder Storm on Narragansett Bay" Appears on Showtime's Billions and HBO's Divorce

One of the Amon Carter's masterpieces recently got some prime time exposure on a couple of high-profile cable television shows. Martin Johnson Heade's painting Thunder Storm on Narragansett Bay (1868) made brief appearances on both Showtime's Billions and HBO's Divorce. Viewers who don't know that the painting is part of the Amon Carter's collection may have thought they were looking at an original. Instead, a reproduction stands in for the real painting in both shows.

Ominous, dark, and foreboding, the painting's storm metaphorically fits in with the central story lines of both productions. Billions involves the bitter battle between U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Chuck Rhoades and hedge fund powerhouse Bobby "Axe" Axelrod. Divorce examines the messy unraveling of the marriage of Robert and Frances Dufresne. The reproduction of Thunder Storm appears in season 2, episode 2 ("Dead Cat Bounce") of Billions, and season 1, episode 6 ("Christmas") of Divorce.

showtime-billions-heade.jpg^ Billions, Season 2, Episode 2: Thunder Storm appears in the antechamber as Chuck Rhoades enters the U.S. Attorney General's office.

hbo-divorce-heade.jpg^ Divorce, Season 1, Episode 6: Thunder Storm appears in the dining room of Robert Dufresne's parents' house.

I ran an analysis of the full support crew for both shows on IMDB (419 total for for Billions and 222 total for Divorce). I suspected I would find common personnel working in art direction or set dressing, which might explain why the reproduction appears in both shows. Though there are twenty-two crew members in common, those folk work in roles such as drone operators, gaffers, electricians, location scouting, makeup, and stunts.

1977-17-blog.jpg^ Martin Johnson Heade (1819–1904) Thunder Storm on Narragansett Bay

Martin Johnson Heade (1819–1904) painted Thunder Storm in 1868. It sold at the National Academy of Design's annual exhibition the same year, but it disappeared for seventy-five years until it was sold in 1943 at an antiques store in Larchmont, New York. The Amon Carter acquired it years later in 1977, and it has intrigued viewers ever since. The painting is currently on tour as part of the exhibition Wild Spaces, Open Seasons: Hunting and Fishing in American Art. The exhibition arrives at the Amon Carter on October 7, 2017.

Samuel Duncan, Head of Library and Archives

The End of the Range

January 18 marked the birthday of an inventor little known to most art historians. This from the Writer's Almanac:

“It’s the birthday of Joseph Farwell Glidden, born in Charleston, New Hampshire (1813). For centuries hedgerows and stone walls were the only way to keep livestock contained; in the American West, cowboys followed herds of cattle to make sure no harm came to them. Glidden saw an exhibition in which a wooden rail with nails protruding from it kept livestock at a distance. He rigged up an old coffee grinder to twist strands of wire around each other, then clipped off the protruding ends to make barbs. A number of men filed patents for similar barbed fences at the same time, and there was a tremendous fight, but Glidden won, and his barbed wire factory made him one of the country’s richest men. That was the end of the Wild West. Long cattle drives came to an end, and longhorn cattle began to disappear; it wasn’t necessary to breed cattle tough enough to survive out on the range anymore.”

Glidden’s invention actually relates very closely to one of my favorite paintings in our collection: Frederic Remington’s The Fall of the Cowboy, 1895.

The Fall of the Cowboy, 1895, oil on canvas, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, 1961.230

In 1895, Remington's friend Owen Wister published an article in Harper's Monthly titled "The Evolution of the Cow-Puncher." A number of illustrations, including a printed version of Remington’s painting, accompanied the article. Remington advised Wister to write about the gradual end of the customary cowboy way of life—open ranges without fences were becoming a thing of the past thanks to inventions like Glidden’s. The painting has a somber, wistful tone, conveyed by the muted colors of a winter scene, in keeping with the artist and author’s intent to mourn the passing of mythic cowboy traditions.

Remington’s picture elegizes the passing of a fundamental way of life. Though it relates on the surface level to a specific aspect of culture that was of its time and place—the transformation of the Wild West open range into a new type of ranching practice—to me the painting has always conveyed deeper significance as a timeless gesture toward endings and beginnings of all sorts—from shifts in weather manifested through stormy skies, to seasonal change as shown in the crisp white snow, to symbolic death and reinvention evoked by the hanging heads of the horse and the sturdy industry of the cowboys.

The signal of a great work of art is when it makes us pause, feel something, and contemplate ideas bigger than ourselves. The Fall of the Cowboy is a moment of quietude in the career of an artist ordinarily preoccupied with ceaseless drama and action.