HAROLD "BUCK" WEAVER
Introduction | Buck Weaver | Don Louis Perceval
How futile the leaning
toward Europe of the American artist of yesterday, for all he got from the
Salons of Paris was warmed-over pottage which, however palatable, was not his
native fare. How often did he bewail the lack of tradition and suitable subject
matter on the, newly colonized, American continent. Yet subject matter there
was, thousands of miles of it, and tradition - who knows in what dim cave the
Art of America began?
The Cliffdweller and Basketmaker left relics for us to find and wonder at, but what of the primitive people from whom they took the land? Were they not artists, for all our lack of knowledge of them? Who has seen the old painted robes of the Plains of the pictographs and pottery of the Southwest without admitting that the American Indian was an artist hundreds of years ago, as he is today?
From the early settlements on the Eastern seaboard the tide of exploration and colonization flowed westward and the Indian continued to paint and be painted. St. Memin painted their portraits in the late eighteenth century and George Catlin in the early nineteenth while J.J. Audubon recorded the birdlife. The West was opening up and the artists were recording that opening - Rindisbacher, Bodmer, and Wimar painted the Indian and the frontier period as did Jules Tavernier and William Carey. Charles Christian Nahl was first to paint the ‘49ers in California and George Caleb Bingham the pioneers, soon followed by De Francheville Narjot, Amedee Joullin, Frederic Remington and Charles Schreyvogel.
More and more painters found their heart’s desire in the peaks of the Sierras or the Canyon of the Colorado - William Keith, Thomas Moran, Thomas Hill followed by Sidney Yard, Charles Rollo Peters, Francis McComas, Henry Joseph Breuer and Fernand Lungren. Artists settled in the West instead of visiting it and Taos drew a goodly share. Bert Phillips and Ernest Blumenschein fell under its spell. Berninghaus, Higgins, Couse, Sharp and Ufer soon followed and the West was no longer a large expanse of nothing populated by hostile Indians. It was subject matter and the Indians were models.
As the twentieth century
advanced Charlie Russell was painting the West as he knew it in Montana, Edward
Borein was etching it in California and the Taos group painted New Mexico. Frank
Tenney Johnson ranged from Colorado to Wyoming and Maynard Dixon from California
to the Rio Grande and from Nevada to the Green. Carl Oscar Borg painted from the
Pacific to the Hopi mesas and the desert succumbed to Jimmy Swinnerton, Buck
Weaver and Vic Forsythe with Edgar Payne carrying on, where Keith had started,
in the High Sierras.
Born in England in 1888, Buck ran away from home in boyhood, going first to France, where he became an apprentice jockey, and then, when disillusioned of the romance of the turf, to America. Working his way west, the early years of this century found him in Arizona, where the Hashknife still ran cattle up to the Little Colorado and cut hay where is now the Painted Desert. Arizona was still a Territory and was wide open; many of its citizens were preparing it to become the great State it is today, while many others had entered it two jumps ahead of a sheriff from farther east. Buck Weaver worked in the cowcamps and the towns, as a cowhand, teamster or Deputy Sheriff or just plain drifted seeing the country. In 1916 he drove a team deep into the Navajo country and with Tobe Turpen established the trading post at Kaibito, spent several years trading with the Navajo, learning their country and their language. The desire to paint the wonderful country around him brought him to San Francisco, where Maynard Dixon was teaching in the twenties. First as a student then as a friend the association between these two men became a lifelong friendship of mutual benefit. Much of Buck’s knowledge of painting came from Maynard Dixon, while Dixon had, in Buck, a trusted assistant on many of his great murals.
I think I may fairly claim
to know as much about Buck Weaver and his work as anybody, having known him for
some twenty-five years and sketching with him received the benefit of his
experience together with his reiteration of Maynard Dixon’s teachings. Buck
Weaver’s canvases are simple, truthful statements of his knowledge of the
Western Landscape. To him truth must form the basis of landscape study where the
elements that surround it and the elements that created it are far more
important than the purely pictorial representation of the landscape itself. A
mountain is only the product of past upheaval and erosion and in order to
portray a mountain, no matter how decoratively, an artist should understand and
appreciate that upheaval and erosion as well as the effect of light, atmosphere
and weather on the mountain, etc., etc. After that side has been fully dealt
with, there comes the composition, the careful study of the balance of one mass
with another, one space with another, till it finally comes down to the study of
the shape and design of each line before the picture is ready for painting. The
color is chosen with care, seldom more than four or five tubes are used in one
picture, and seldom is a color used without small quantities of the other colors
being mixed with it. Something of the sky goes into the ground, something of the
ground is reflected in the clouds, the earth color shows through the sky
reflection in the shadows of the brush just as the brush picks up some of the
color of the earth. Slowly and painstakingly, after weeks and sometimes months,
the picture is completed, a harmony of design and color based on the undeniable
laws of nature.
Don Louis Perceval:
Son of parents who were also artists, born in 1908. Says he was raised on horses. Spent summer vacations doing ranch work, mountain climbing or making trips to the Indian country. Studied at Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles, Heatherley’s Art School and the Royal College of Art in London. Further study was done in most of the galleries of Europe, the longest stretch being in the Prado, Madrid. Travelled over Europe and parts of Africa as well as the West Indies sketching and painting. Don’s greatest interest is painting the southwest, especially the Navajo country. Being in Europe in 1939 he joined the British Navy and served six years. Collects Navajo silver, blankets, etc. Taught art at Chouinard Art Institute and is now teaching at Pomona College. Lives in Altadena, although he "prefers any wild spot to city life."
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