Gateway to Montana's Artistic Legacy

Exhibit Archives

The Call of the Mountains 
The Artists of Glacier National Park

June 27 to October 12, 2002

Creek, by John Fery
by John Fery
Courtesy of Paul Masa Gallery
Empire Builders

See America First! Said the Great Northern Railway for several generations.
The Great Northern commissioned painters like Adolph Heinze, John Fery, Kathryn Leighton, and Winold Reiss to portray Glacier National Park on canvas and paper. Louis Hill invested thousands annually in promoting his "Empire Builder" train line and it's accommodations, patronizing many fine artists over the years.

See America First Campaign 
Louis Hill brought many artists to Glacier National Park. Hill and the Great Northern Railway touted Glacier National Park as the "Switzerland of America," and the Park was soon to become the focus of the "See America First" campaign that had earlier been developed and used by a variety of tourist's agencies and industries. 
If Hill were to lure wealthy eastern tourists who had formerly traveled to Europe or had spent their vacations at resorts and spas in the East, the advertising campaign would have to be imaginative and expensive. Neither qualification was a problem for Louis W. Hill. As early as 1911 he had sponsored groups of eastern journalists, newspapermen, travel agents, and the Chicago Geographical Society to travel to the new national park in order to describe its exceptional scenery to the American people, who where more interested in touring than ever before. The promotional campaign included a Great Northern Art Show, costing a reported fifty thousand dollars. The exhibition depicted the newly formed park as a romantic Western Landscape worthy of Americans interest. 
Austrian painter John Fery provided the majority of the canvases. Paintings by Charles M. Russell, the popular cowboy and western artist from Great Falls, were included later as were numerous large-format photographs by Fred H. Kiser, the first official photographer of Glacier Park. All became the foundation for popular exhibits in New York and Chicago. 
In 1914 Hill spent almost 750,000 dollars on the advertising campaign, to say nothing of the free publicity her garnered through such a gimmick as sending a contingent of Blackfeet Indians to New York City, where at his urging they refused to take rooms in the McAlpine Hotel, and instead pitched tipis on the roof. 
The Great Northern Railway printed books, maps, and pamphlets with such revealing titles as Western Trips for Eastern People, Short Jaunts of Little Money, and Glacier National Park Indian Portfolio. Hill's relentless promotion included luring newsreel companies like Pathe Freres into the park to create interesting events such as a December expedition that battled a blizzard on Mount Elizabeth and the visit of President William Howard Taft's children -- Robert and Helen, with Blackfeet at Two Medicine Lake. 
Hill worked with producers of travel films and documentaries to create Great Indian Dramas, Camping with the Blackfeet and Across Swiftcurrent Pass on Horseback. Newsreels and western movies were exploding in popularity and literally millions of filmgoers the world over came to know about Glacier National Park and the Glacier Park Indians.

Winold Reiss
(1888 - 1953) Winold Reiss first learned about the American West reading frontier adventure novels like James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales. Fritz Reiss, Winold's father, realized his son had talent and enrolled him at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and the School of Applied Arts in Munich. Winold fell in love with a fellow student, Henrietta Luethy, and they married in 1912. Reiss convinced his bride that they should come to America. When they arrived in New York the following year, he naively expected to be greeted by Indians. Settling in New York City and anxious to paint Indians, Reiss eventually found a model, a Blackfoot recently fired from the circus. With his model dressed in a war bonnet and beaded shirt borrowed from the American Museum of Natural History, Reiss completed his first authentic Indian portrait. By 1918 he had saved enough money to allow him to chase his dreams of the West in real Indian country. In the fall of 1919, he traveled alone to Browning, Montana on the Great Northern. Eagerly jumping off the train in Browning, Reiss enthusiastically slapped the first Blackfoot he encountered on the back and shouted "How!" Turtle, A.K.A Angry Bull, didn't take offense, and the two became lifelong friends. He shared sleeping quarters with a cowboy at the Haggerty Hotel and used one of its public rooms as a makeshift studio. Reiss produced 35 portraits of the Blackfeet within the month, using brilliant colors in pastel and tempera, rather than traditional oil. The Blackfeet bestowed on him the name Beaver Child. 
Back in New York, he exhibited his new works at the H. Hanfstaengl Gallery, and in January 1920, they caught the eye of Dr. Philip Cole, who purchased the entire group, now exhibited at the Bradford Brinton Memorial in Big Horn, Wyoming. Reiss spent the next eight years teaching, filling commercial orders, and illustrating for magazines. 
Reiss convinced his brother Hans to join him in operating his art school. Hans suffered asthma attacks in the heavy, humid air of New York, and he traveled to Glacier National Park for a change of climate. He decided to stay and became a licensed guide in the Park. By chance, one of his clients was Louis Hill. Their association led to a contract for Winold Reiss. 
For ten years beginning in 1927, Winold Reiss returned to Browning every summer to paint for the Great Northern Railway. Accompanying him on his first trip was his 13 year-old son, Tjark, who acted as a helper and crayon sharpener. Reiss asked Tjark to record some of the history of each Indian who posed for him. On April 14, 1928, fifty of Reiss' paintings were exhibited at a one-man show, titled American Indian Portraits, at the Belmaison Galleries in New York. 
The Great Northern Railway published a companion book to the exhibition. Many exhibitions followed, in America and overseas. Louis Hill bought at least 80 paintings, many of which found their way to the covers of railroad calendars, continually printed for thirty years by Brown and Bigelow. Each year Reiss stopped painting in early September to allow Tjark to return to school in New York. Finished portraits were sent from Browning to the Great Northern Railway headquarters in St. Paul. For three years he also ran a summer art school with his friend Carl Link, renting a cabin from Hugh and Mary Black near St. Mary's Lake.

The Great Northern Art School  Winold Reiss played a dual role for the Great Northern as an artist and as a teacher in the mid-1930s. His friend, the outstanding New York painter Carl Link, came out from New York to teach with him in the summer at the St. Mary Chalets. Link's teaching experience at the Art Student's League and Columbia University helped give the school an excellent reputation when he teamed up with Reiss. Tjark Reiss remembered: "Classes started at nine each morning. usually the Indians posed in their own ceremonial robes..." Karoal Miener, a noted student, praised him: "Reinold always found something nice to say about your picture, and then with a slight touch of a finger rubbing-out or adding a line, your picture was OK. He also insisted that parts were done again, but seemed to know how far or how much to criticize each picture according to the pupil." While most students enrolled through New York University and paid tuition, exceptions were made for several talented Blackfeet, including Gerald Tailfeathers. The summer school's most notable woman student, 
Elizabeth Davey Lochrie later recalled: "I got aquainted with the Indians. I found them so paintable that I've done them ever since. I've done hundreds, maybe thousands. Every summer after (1931) I either took the children or left them home with the maid, and I went to Glacier or the Flathead, or somewhere to paint Crow, Nez Perce, Blackfeet, Assiniboine. I spent all summer chasing Indians." Feeling the effects of the Depression, the Great Northern Railway closed the school after the summer of 1937, and a disappointed Winold Reiss stayed in New York. 

Elizabeth Davey Lochrie Elizabeth Davey Lochrie was born in Deer Lodge, July 1, 1890. Her life was spent in early Montana settlements with "braid" Indian neighbors; she was educated in Butte schools and received her art education at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 1911. During 1924-1925 she painted eighteen children's murals for the Montana State Hospital. After 1931 Lochrie specialized in Native American portraits, particularly of Blackfeet tribal members, having produced more than a thousand water colors, oils, murals and sculptures. Admission to her lectures was frequently a donation of clothing and other necessities for needy native Americans. She was adopted by the Blackfeet and given the name "Netchitaki" which translates as "Woman Alone In Her Way." The Blackfeet said, "She came to us from over the Western mountains, this white woman. She was friendly and understanding. We brought her into the medicine teepee and made her our sister." She later recalled her days at the Great Northern Summer Art School, studying with Weinold Reiss: "I got aquainted with the Indians. I found them so paintable that I've done them ever since. I've done hundreds, maybe thousands. Every summer after (1931) I either took the children or left them home with the maid, and I went to Glacier or the Flathead, or somewhere to paint Crow, Nez Perce, Blackfeet, Assiniboine. I spent all summer chasing Indians." From 1937 to 1939, Lochrie painted some historic murals in the post offices at Burley and Saint Anthony, Idaho and in Dillon and Galen, Montana. From 1936 to 1939, she was staff artist for the Great Northern Railroad in Glacier National Park.

Gerald Tailfeathers (1925 - 1975) Gerald Tailfeathers was born on the Standoff Blood Reserve, Alberta, in 1925. His native names translate as Big Walking Away (Omuka-nista-payh'pee) and Walking on Top (Eets-pahp-awag-uh'ka). He had the advantage of formal art education and utilized its lessons in both the field of commercial art and in fine art. Tailfeathers' careers, as artist, draughtsman, and Indian rights activist, kept him moving back and forth between his reserve and the city throughout his life. Tailfeathers worked in charcoal and pastel, two media that he perfected while under the tutelage of Winold Reiss and Carl Link, who ran a summer art school at St. Mary's Lake when he was a young man. In addition to the artistic education he recieved during this time, Tailfeathers also developed a knowledge of his own Blood people and their traditions. Rooming with a number of elders, he was privy to their evening stories around the campfire. While most students paid tuition, exceptions were made for several talented Blackfeet, including Gerald. In 1941, Tailfeathers began studies at the Banff School of Fine Arts, then studied at the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art in Calgary in 1942. Here the artist learned the skills of the design trade that he would apply as a commercial artist for the Hudson's Bay Company for many years. Early on, he was instructed to anglicize his name and signed his work "Gerald T. Fethers" until 1963, when he finally started signing his own name again. In 1957 he began to make a concerted effort to be accurate in terms of the historical significance of his work -- depicting incidents and events in the history of the Blood Indians of Alberta. In 1959, after 18 years as a city dweller, Gerald moved back to the Blood Reserve and began painting in earnest. He would continue to be prolific until his death in 1975. As one of the first Native artists to be active within the mainstream Canadian visual arts community, Gerald Tailfeathers stands out. He melded a career marked by commitment to his art, his community, and to social activism for the rights of First Nations peoples.

John Fery (1859 - 1934) Johann Nepomuk Levy was born in Strasswalchen, Austria on March 25, 1859 and grew up in Pressburg. His father urged him to study art and literature, and in 1881, he enrolled at the Vienna Academy of Art. Upon moving to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1883, Johann legally changed his name to John Fery in order to better adapt to his new country. He returned to Europe where he married Mary Rose Kraemer. After their first child was born in 1885, he went back to Milwaukee with his family. The following years found Fery leaving his wife and children for extended periods to paint in the West. Recognition came slowly, but his work finally caught the attention of Louis Hill of the Great Northern railroad, who immediately hired him for the "See America First" campaign. From 1910 through 1913, Fery was on the payroll of the Great Northern. He completed an amazing 347 major oil paintings for the astoundingly low average price of $31.70 each. The paintings he created decorated Glacier National Park lodges, ticket agent offices, and Great Northern depots from St. Paul to Seattle. Although dramatically underpaid, Fery had the benefit of a studio and living quarters in St. Paul, a free railroad pass, lodging in Glacier, along with a yearly salary of $2,400. Always prolific, he averaged nearly 14 outdoor scenes each month. In 1914 he was "loaned" to the Northern Pacific Railway to paint scenes of Yellowstone National Park. The next year he returned to Glacier to complete paintings for the opening of Many Glacier Hotel. Following the event, Fery found himself OFF the payroll of the Great Northern. He spent the next few years free-lancing throughout the West, before moving back to Milwaukee in 1923. In 1925, Louis Hill again called on Fery, offering the same salary paid in 1910, but without the provision for a studio. The contract required Fery to produce four to six large canvases monthly. Desperate for work, he spent the next four summers painting in Glacier. In 1929, the Ferys moved to Orcas Island, Washington to be closer to their children. A new studio was built, but that fall a fire destroyed all the paintings he had finished for the Great Northern. After months of stalling, the Great Northern agreed to pay Fery $600 for seventeen paintings that were due them. After that, there were no more contracts. Fery's wife died in the spring of 1930, making his final years sad and lonely.

Kathryn Leighton Born in Plainfield, New Hampshire, Kathryn was a celebrated Indian portrait and landscape painter. She attended Kimball Union Academy near Plainfield and graduated in 1900 from the Massachusetts Normal Art School. That same year, she married attorney Edward Leighton, and then studied in Paris and Vienna. In 1910, she and her husband moved to Los Angeles where she studied at the Stickney School of Art in Pasadena. Doing floral still life and landscapes, she repeatedly depicted her favorite subject, which was the desert in bloom. In 1918, she began to paint American Indian portraits, many of them signed by the sitter, and this endeavor brought her international recognition. Having been told about Glacier National Park by Charles Russell, she spent much time in that region where she created panoramic landscapes. Katherine visited Charlie Russell at his retreat at Bull Head Lodge in 1925, where she made a painting on one of the muslin "privacy screens" in the cabin (now in the C. M. Russell Museum collection), joining the proud company which included Maynard Dixon, Philip R. Goodwin, and Joe De Yong. In 1926, The Great Northern Railway purchased all of her Glacier Park paintings of that year. Russell introduced her to the Blackfeet Indians who adopted her into their tribe after she had spent several summers with them painting portraits of the old chiefs and other prominent members of the tribe. She did twenty-two paintings of Blackfeet elders for The Great Northern Railway, whose personnel used them in lecture series about the disintegration of Indian cultural traditions. In 1929, she toured Europe and the Eastern United States with her paintings, and gained widespread recognition for her artistic skill and the educational aspects of her work. She also painted the Sioux and Cherokee in Oklahoma and did other Indian portraits from her studio in Los Angeles. These portraits, numbering about 700, remain a valuable, lasting historical record of their customs, clothing and lore.

Adolph Heinze (1887 - 1958) German-born painter Adolf Heinze was commissioned by the Great Northern Railway to create images of Glacier park for brochures and posters. He was photographed on Logan Pass touching up a painting of one of the peaks. One of his paintings shows early versions of the famous red motor coaches which are so closely identified with Glacier.

Julius Seyler (1873 -1955) When Julius Seyler first traveled to Montana, he was forty years old and already a successful artist. Born in 1873, Seyler began his studies at the prestigious Munich Academy of Fine Arts in 1894. He seemed equally as interested in pursuing a career as a speed skater. Unwilling to choose one over the other, he excelled at both. 
In 1895 he skated to the German National Championship and twice became the European titleholder. Painting kept its hold on Seyler. Seyler's connection to the United States came through a young Norwegian-American art student Helga Boechmann, whom he met as early as 1900 while they were attending the Munich Academy. After a ten-year courtship, the two married in St. Paul, Minnesota. 
It was through his bride's family that Seyler was introduced to Louis W. Hill of the Great Northern Railway. Louis Hill invited Seyler to be his personal guest in Glacier National Park and to visit the developing tourist network of gracious mountain hotels and interlinking roads and trails. In June of 1913, Seyler and Louis Hill left St. Paul on the evening train, steaming west toward Montana, relaxing in Hill's private railroad car. Seyler wrote home to Germany of his superb accommodations and of his eager expectations for the trip. Communication with Hill was difficult for the German-speaking artist, the two were essentially reduced to sign language. Staying at Glacier Park Lodge, between the Blackfeet and Flathead Indian Reservations, Seyler was impacted strongly by the dramatic scenery of the Park, as well as the brilliant colored attire of the Indians. The concept of the nomadic Indians living in balance with nature, free on the boundless stretches of land fringed with forests, provided this European artist with a great contrast to his own birthplace -- a catalyst that consumed him, exploding in a passionate rendering of his work. 
Seyler was different fro the many artists Hill commissioned to paint the Park. He was not under contract or employed by the Great Northern Railway. And while other artists were depicting Glacier's scenic grandeur in terms that were recognizable and popular, Seyler's paintings were not as literal or visually exact. Instead, he painted in the late-impressionist manner, where visual reality was fragmented and dissolved into a light-infused kaleidoscope of brush strokes. 
At the 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art at the Sixty-ninth Regiment Armory Show in New York, modern art, including Seyler's, was criticized by many detractors as "...extreme, degenerate, and dangerous to American morals."
 Seyler came to focus more on the cultural icons of the Blackfeet, than on the images of the unspoiled mountain scenery promoted as the "wildest part of America." 
The Blackfeet, contrary to the advertising department of the Great Northern, were not essentially a mountain people. Seyler focused more on the historic life of the Blackfeet as a people inhabiting the high plains. Julius Seyler spent two idyllic summers in Glacier National Park and the Blackfeet Reservation. He was adopted into the Blackfeet, and given the name "Boss Ribs," by Jack Big Moon. His greatest honor among the Blackfeet was an invitation to the Sun Dance in 1914. 
Helga and Julius moved back to Minnesota to stay with the Boechmanns for seven years. He visited Montana a few more times before relocating to Germany, eventually becoming a professor at his alma mater, the Munich Academy. 
Poor health and World War Two frustrated any efforts to return to the United States before his death in 1955.

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