JAMES EARLE FRASER (1876-1953)
JAMES EARLE FRASER (1876-1953)
JAMES EARLE FRASER (1876-1953)
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JAMES EARLE FRASER (1876-1953)
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WESTERN MASTERWORKS: PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION
JAMES EARLE FRASER (1876-1953)

The End of the Trail

Details
JAMES EARLE FRASER (1876-1953)
The End of the Trail
inscribed '©∙FRASER∙1918', 'GORHAM CO. FOUNDERS', 'QAZA' and stamped with foundry mark 'GC' (along the base)
bronze with brown patina
44 ¾ in. (113.7 cm.) high
Modeled and cast circa 1918.
Literature
A.L. Freundlich, The Sculpture of James Earle Fraser, Boca Raton, Florida, 2001, pp. 1, 6, 7, 167, another example illustrated.
T. Tolles, T.B. Smith, The American West in Bronze, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2013, pp. ix, 11, 25, 49-51, 154, 155, no. 21, figs. 13, 61, other examples illustrated.

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Lot Essay

One of the most famous Western American images ever conceived, James Earle Fraser's masterwork The End of the Trail captures the despair of Native Americans over the loss of their homeland, simultaneously drawing attention to their plight and poignantly celebrating their indelible character. The present cast is rare, powerful casting of the subject in remarkable largescale.

First modeled in plaster in 1894, Fraser’s vision for The End of the Trail was initially realized in monumental scale as a central fixture of the 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, where it won a gold medal. Initially inspired by exhibits he saw at the 1893 World's Colombian Exposition in Chicago, Fraser also acknowledged that the work had roots in his own experience, expressing sympathy for Sioux Indians who would venture out from their confinement on the Crow Creek Reservation to hunt on their ancestral lands near his childhood home, a family ranch in the Dakota Territory, present-day South Dakota. Fraser further explained that he was inspired by a notion he overheard from trappers of his grandfather’s generation, professing that the Native American tribes were being pushed further and further from their homelands. Ultimately, after considering other ways to capture the theme, Fraser landed on the idea “of making an Indian which represented his race reaching the end of the trail, at the edge of the Pacific [Ocean].” (as quoted in T. Tolles, T.B. Smith, The American West in Bronze, New Haven, Connecticut, 2013, p. 50)

The image’s popularity at the Pan-Pacific exposition likely resulted in Fraser’s reducing his heroic plaster monument into two smaller sculptures. Reductions in two sizes were cast concurrently at the Gorham foundry through the “Plaster-mold” technique and at Roman Bronze works via lost-wax in the late 1910s and 1920s. It is likely that Gorham was the sole producer of the 44-inch casts while Roman Bronze produced the 33-inch casts. According to period record, by 1925, Frasers Gorham casts were retailing for $1,200 while the Roman Bronze casts were listed at just $280. In addition to the present cast, other editions of the sculpture in the 44-inch scale are in the collections of Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan; Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma; Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama and the Art Institute of Chicago.

In this remarkably large iteration of the trail’s end, Fraser’s depiction of an exhausted Native American warrior slumped on his mount is especially forceful. With tremendous anatomical accuracy, his subjects and their plight are remarkably credible, as they visibly struggle against the elements, represented in the positioning of the horse’s windblown tail and the rider’s robe and hair. From the earliest days, this dramatic positioning elicited reaction from the American public. One period publication announced his subject as, “…the tragic figure of the last Indian, on Horseback. The horse crouched before the fury of the storm back of him, and the man’s figure bent halfway to the horse’s mane. They are indeed at the end of the trail, and the great storm that has driven them on is the national stupidity that has greedily and cruelly destroyed a race of people possessing imagination, integrity, fidelity and nobility. This monument erected would be to the nobility of the Indian.” (“A Sculptor of People and Ideals,” The Touchstone, New York, May 1920, vol. VII, no. 2, p. 93) Such sentiments represented early recognition of the role that non-Native Americans played in the demise of the country’s original inhabitants, while also building on an already widely established romantic notion of the American Indian.

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