Erwin E. Smith

Creator Details

Growing up in Bonham, Texas, Erwin Smith knew he wanted to be a cowboy and an artist. The era of great trail drives was ending, and he was determined to document the open-range lifestyle before it disappeared completely. Smith gained experience by working on ranches and studying painting and sculpting at art schools in Chicago and Boston before he realized that the photographs he used as preliminary studies were works of art themselves. Between 1905 and the mid-1920s, he photographed ranch work and life in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, producing some of the best-known images of early 20th-century cowboy activities. The Carter holds about 150 prints by Smith, many gifted by Smith’s half-sister, Mary Alice Pettis, as well as 2,000 negatives on permanent deposit from the Library of Congress.

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Artworks