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John Ford Clymer (1907-1989)
John Ford Clymer (1907-1989)
John Ford Clymer (1907-1989)
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John Ford Clymer (1907-1989)
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The Legend of the West: Iconic Works from the T. Boone Pickens Collection
John Ford Clymer (1907-1989)

Grand Parade–Green River Rendezvous 1836

Details
John Ford Clymer (1907-1989)
Grand Parade–Green River Rendezvous 1836
signed and dated 'John Clymer/CA/©1981' (lower left)
oil on canvas
30 x 60 in. (76.2 x 152.4 cm.)
Painted in 1981.
Provenance
(Probably) Texas Art Gallery, Inc., Dallas, Texas.
(Probably) Acquired by the late owner from the above.
Literature
Illustrators: Annual of American illustration, vol. 24, New York, 1983, pp. 6-7, illustrated.

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Tylee Abbott
Tylee Abbott

Lot Essay

During his mature career as a preeminent post-War Western artist, John Clymer paid tribute to his love of the West through a series of historical paintings that illuminate the stories of the frontiersmen who first explored the far reaches of the continent. From Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea, to the Rocky Mountain fur traders who followed in their wake, Clymer dedicated himself to accurately recording their histories in elaborately detailed tableaus, which motivate modern audiences to tangibly consider what life was like for the pioneers. In order to appropriately convey the atmosphere for each work, Clymer and his wife Doris would extensively research each of the figures he painted, and also travel from their home in Teton Village, Wyoming, to visit the actual settings where key events took place. As the artist himself explained, “I think it is the accumulation of all these experiences, the research and the old stories, the trips on the old trails to actual places, the visits to history museums, large and small, that make it possible to do pictures that are real and believable and have the feeling of the place and the time. I have always tried in both wildlife paintings and historical paintings to take the viewer to an actual place and make him feel he was really there.” (as quoted in W. Reed, John Clymer: An Artist's Rendezvous With The Frontier West, Flagstaff, Arizona, 1976, p. 32)

In the present work, Clymer transports the viewer to the famed Green River Rendezvous of 1836, which took place at Horse Creek, near what is now Pinedale, Wyoming. First held in July 1825, and recurring annually for the next fifteen years, the Rendezvous was an important gathering of traders and trappers from the Plains, Rockies, Southwest and Great Basin, as well as Native Americans, to exchange goods and distribute supplies carried into the area from St. Louis and Santa Fe. Along with the business conducted, the meeting also became a boisterous social occasion, where drinking, gambling and horse racing were primary means of entertainment.

The 1836 Rendezvous was notably attended by a group of missionaries traveling through the area on their way to establish the church in the Pacific Northwest. Among the party were the first two female settlers to ever cross the Continental Divide, Narcissa Whitman and Eliza Spalding. On July 9, 1836, the four Indian tribes in attendance formed a grand parade of five or six hundred warriors, showing off their attire, weapons and horses as they welcomed the unusual visitors. As missionary William Gray described, “The procession commenced at the east or lower end of the plain in the vicinity of the Snake and Bannock camps. The Nez Perces and Flatheads, passing from their camps down the Horse Creek, joined the Snake and Bannock warriors, all dressed and painted in their gayest uniforms…carrying their war weapons, bearing their war emblems and Indian implements of music, such as skins drawn over hoops with rattles and trinkets to make a noise.” (as quoted in F. Gowans, Rocky Mountain Rendezvous: A History of the Fur Trade Rendezvous 1825-1840, Layton, Utah, 2005, p. 142)

In depicting the parade in the present work, Clymer follows in the footsteps of Alfred Jacob Miller, the only artist to ever actually attend a Green River Rendezvous. Miller’s hundreds of sketches and watercolors inspired by his visit to the 13th annual gathering in 1837 have become a primary source for researchers of the event. Like the parade held the prior year for the missionaries, during Miller’s visit, the Snake Indian Chief Ma-Wo-Ma led another cavalcade in honor of their established friend, and Miller’s noble Scottish patron, Captain William Drummond Stewart. Miller recorded the procession in his oil painting Cavalcade (circa 1839, Oklahoma Museum of History, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma).

In his 1981 painting Grand ParadeGreen River Rendezvous 1836, Clymer clearly references both the contemporary diary descriptions as well as Miller’s visual depictions of the scene, while infusing the setting with his own illustrative style. At the center of the ring of parading Natives, a missionary couple can be seen standing in front of their covered wagon. Surrounding them are a gang of trappers and traders in fur hats and caps, sitting around a fire or pausing on horseback to watch the performance of the fully-bedecked Indians. As in Clymer’s best paintings, each and every character has a unique personality and expression, and the landscape background is detailed and fully immersive, providing the viewer with endless visual interest amidst the raucous excitement of the scene. As a result, Clymer’s impressive painting continues in the historical documentary tradition of nineteenth-century masters, such as Miller, while establishing his own position among the modern annals of Western American art history.

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