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Home People & Lifestyle Western Art ‘Custer’s Last Stand’ Art Exhibit Now on Display at Whitney Gallery in Cody, Wyoming

‘Custer’s Last Stand’ Art Exhibit Now on Display at Whitney Gallery in Cody, Wyoming

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"Brush, Palette, and Custer's Last Stand," featuring artists who depicted the Battle of the Little Bighorn, is now on display at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center's Whitney Gallery of Western Art in Cody, Wyoming.

Assembled from the Center's collection, several paintings, prints, and sketches will be on display for the next two years, offering a glimpse into those fateful days in the summer of 1876.

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"Variously called the Battle of Little Bighorn, the Battle of Greasy Grass, Custer's Last Stand, Custer's Last Fight, and several other names depending on cultural and historical perspective, the Battle of the Little Bighorn remains shrouded in mystery," Acting Curator Christine Brindza said.

In 2008, Brindza shared her research in a presentation to the Custer Battlefield Historical Museum Association Symposium in Hardin, Montana.

"Some of these early artists served as historians, whether intentionally or not, revealing details of the battle in their work," she added. "Others merely created a work of art based on imagination. Regardless, as the public saw these early images, their views of the battle were shaped by the artwork, and therefore, helped create myths and legends that resonate even today."

On display near the Frederic Remington Studio in the Whitney Gallery, the exhibit includes works by William de la Montagne Cary (1840 - 1922), John Mulvany (1844 - 1906), Cassilly Adams (1843 - 1921), Edgar S. Paxson (1852 - 1919), Allan Mardon (b. 1931), Earl Biss (1947 - 1998), and Fritz Scholder (1937 - 2005).

Writing in the Summer 2010 issue of Points West, the quarterly publication of the BBHC exclusively for its members, Brindza notes that "Edgar S. Paxson's Custer's Last Stand, finished in 1899, became one of the best-known images of the event, both glorifying the battle and creating a so-called martyred Custer."

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Paxson's oil on canvas is 70.5 x 106 inches (just under six feet by nearly nine feet) and is an action-packed depiction of the battle according to the artist's imagination. More than 200 figures are represented, and at least 25 portraits, including yellow-haired Custer.

"The Historical Center has 14 sketches which Paxson used for his mammoth painting Custer's Last Stand which he completed in 1899," Brindza added. "We also have a photograph of Paxson working on this piece and a number of his painting tools like brushes, charcoal holders, and paint boxes."

The Center also has in its collection Mardon's Battle of Greasy Grass, an oil on linen which also is quite large - 76 x 136 inches (just over six feet by about 11 feet).

"In The Battle of Greasy Grass, Mardon included individuals mostly ignored or unheard of in other battle representations," Brindza wrote in Points West. "Though he did paint Custer and other well known people, Mardon incorporated others such as Kate Bighead, a Cheyenne woman who witnessed the battle from a distance."

Mardon's Battle of Greasy Grass was purchased for the museum with funds from the William E. Weiss Memorial Fund, Mr. and Mrs. Gordon H. Barrows, and the Franklin A. West Memorial Fund.

The Paxson and Mardon works are situated across from each other with computer kiosks for more study. Earl Biss's General Custer in Blue and Green, 1996, is nearby.

"Earl Biss (1947 - 1998), artist and member of the Crow nation, focused not on the battle, but on the most well-known individual from the battle, George Armstrong Custer," according to Brindza. "Biss, a renowned abstract expressionist, conveyed emotion through color and line in the portrait General Custer in Blue and Green, 1996, using strengths from both his cultural background and artistic training."

While the Center has many letters and drawings concerning the battle, they have been displayed in a variety of cases in various locations. This new "Brush, Palette, and Custer's Last Stand" exhibit is the first time everything has been brought together in one showing.

Committed to connecting people with the Spirit of the American West, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center weaves the varied threads of the western experience-history and myth, art and Native culture, firearms technology and the nature of Yellowstone-into the rich panorama that is the American West.

The Center, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is now operating its summer schedule, open daily, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. For general information, visit
www.bbhc.org , or call (307) 587.4771.

For more information on the Battle of the Little Bighorn, visit the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument's Web site at
www.nps.gov/libi/index.htm. The national monument, near Crow Agency, Montana, is the site of the June 25, 1876 battle between the U.S. Army's 7th cavalry and several bands of Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho.


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