Dr. Henry Adams, well-known art historian and author, has begun a biography on the late American Artist, Harry Jackson (1924 – 2011). The Buffalo Bill Center of the West (formerly the Buffalo Bill Historical Center) and Harry Jackson Studios are working with Adams to tell the story of this uniquely American master. Adams spent time over the last two summers researching in Cody, Wyoming. In 2011, he studied the extensive archives at Harry Jackson Studios which include Jackson’s journals dating back to 1945, collected letters, personal records, business records, and an extensive library that Jackson had annotated. Last summer, Adams returned to Cody and conducted interviews with Jackson’s close friends. He is now working on the biography manuscript.
Henry Adams writes “Harry Jackson is best remembered as the most important sculptor of themes drawn from the American West since Remington and Russell, and as the figure responsible for resurrecting a dying genre and creating the phenomenon of contemporary Western art. But in fact, this achievementis only one episode in Harry Jackson’s astonishing career.” Since Harry Jackson passed away in 2011 the availability of his archives and large collection of his own works offer an incredible opportunity for scholarship. “This biography is but the first step in the exploration of an important American artist,” said Mindy N. Besaw, curator of the Whitney Gallery of Western Art, “and we are proud to promote this important research.
Harry Jackson’s painting “Red, Yellow and Blue” was shown in the ground breaking 9th Street show of Abstract Expressionism in 1951. He was friends with Jackson Pollock, who was born in Cody, WY, and was in the art movement that moved the center of the art world from Paris to New York. Yet he was also a close friend of John Wayne’s and considered one of the foremost sculptors of the American West. These seemingly contradictory scenes come from the same life. No wonder the working title for Henry Adams biography is “The Nine Lives of Harry Jackson.”
The Center of the West has 35 Harry Jackson paintings and sculptures from the abstract to the realistic. When chosen as the Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale’s Honored Artist, Jackson’s viewing advice was, “Don’t impose your images on the work. Open yourself, and be as neutrally and lovingly receptive as you can be. This is the way to look at any work of art, no matter how realistic or abstract it may be. Just let it happen to you.”
Tackling the Harry Jackson biography isn’t new ground for Henry Adams. He is a professor of Art History at Case-Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and has written extensively on the subject. His books cover the gamut from Thomas Eakins, Thomas Hart Benton to Jackson Pollock. Some of his more recent volumes include Tom and Jack: The Intertwined Lives of Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock, Viktor Schreckengost: American Da Vinci, Thomas Hart Benton: An American Original, Eakins Revealed: The Secret Life of an American Artist. Adams received the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature by the Cleveland Arts Prize.
“Henry is a deeply engaging writer who has a knack for making sense of ‘difficult’ works of art,” said former Arts Prize-winner Dennis Dooley, in presenting Adams as a candidate for this award. “Adams can spin a narrative as gripping as any novelist’s.”
The painter Andrew Wyeth called Adams’s 2005 book, Thomas Eakins: Eakins Revealed, “the most extraordinary biography I have ever read on an artist. . . . It was like following Eakins’s footprints in the snow as he walked down a back street in Philadelphia.”
ARTNews predicted the book would “impact our understanding” of this seminal artist “the way Fawn Brodie’s biography of Thomas Jefferson changed our view of the author of the Declaration of Independence. It’s no longer possible to see Eakins as a simple American hero, or to ignore the dark shadows that shaped his life.”
In his newest book, Adams probes the improbable relationship between Jackson Pollock and Thomas Hart Benton, who became, not only a teacher and mentor, but a surrogate father figure. When the two met, Benton was one of the most famous artists in America. And the last person you would have thought would have an impact on Pollock’s painting.
Since 1917, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West has been committed to the greatness and growth of the American West, keeping western experiences alive. The Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, weaves the varied threads of the western experience—history and myth, art and Native culture, firearms, and the nature and science of Yellowstone—into the rich panorama that is the American West. The Center is now operating its summer schedule, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily. For additional information, visit centerofthewest.org, or visit the Center’s page on Facebook.
Harry Jackson Studios represents Harry Jackson’s estate. Started by the artist to market and sell his artwork it is continued by his family. It promotes shows of the Harry Jackson Collection, research in the Harry Jackson Archives and sales of Harry Jackson works of art. For additional information visit www.harryjacksonstudios.com or visit their page on facebook.
Buffalo Bill Center of the West: www.centerofthewest.org
Harry Jackson Studios: www.harryjacksonstudios.com
Henry Adams page at Case-Western Reserve University: Http://www.cwru.edu/artsci/arth/henryadamspage.html
Cleveland Arts Prize 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award: http://clevelandartsprize.org/awardees/Henry_Adams.html
Amazon.com Henry Adams author’s page: http://www.amazon.com/Henry-Adams/e/B001IYX3D8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
Viktor Schreckengost: American Da Vinci: http://www.amazon.com/Viktor-Schreckengost-American-Da-Vinci/dp/B0064XON0K/ref=la_B001IYX3D8_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1364309615&sr=1-4
Tom and Jack: The Intertwined Lives of Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock: Http://www.amazon.com/Tom-Jack-Intertwined-Jackson-Pollock/dp/1596914203/ref=la_B001IYX3D8_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364309615&sr=1-1
Thomas Hart Benton: An American Original: http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Hart-Benton-American-Original/dp/0394571533/ref=la_B001IYX3D8_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1364309615&sr=1-2
Eakins Revealed: The Secret Life of an American Artist: http://www.amazon.com/Eakins-Revealed-Secret-American-Artist/dp/0195156684/ref=la_B001IYX3D8_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1364309615&sr=1-3