John Ford Clymer

Clearing the Palo Duro

MEDIUM: Oil on canvas

DIMENSIONS: 24 x 48 inches

ESTIMATE: $175,000.00 - $275,000.00

Signed/CA and dated 1980 lower right

Signed, titled and dated Feb. 10, 1980 verso

Additional Information

Provenance:
Erivan & Helga Haub
Private collection, Texas

Literature:
Erivan and Helga Haub Family: Collection of Western Art Volume II, by Christine Mollring, published by Mollring Enterprises, Inc. Jackson, Wyoming, 2005, illustrated p.156

During a 20-year period starting in 1942, John Clymer painted more than 80 covers for one of the most popular publications of the first half of the 20th century, the Saturday Evening Post. Although he couldn’t hold a candle to Norman Rockwell’s 322 covers for the Post, Clymer’s reputation as a master storyteller of the American experience was set in stone by the time he left the world of illustration in 1962. He immediately turned his attention to the American West, particularly historical scenes that he could bring to life through careful research and detail-focused depictions of early Americans. The interest in history was no accident; it materialized during a trip along the Oregon Trail. Clymer would drive and Doris, his wife, would read from a trail journal she had discovered several years earlier. As they made their way along the route, noting each major pioneer stop along the way, the West unfolded dramatically for the artist. A new world was open to him as stories began to come alive in his studio: trappers on the American frontier, flatboats delivering pelts and goods to a hunting camp or rendezvous, Native American warriors hunting from horseback, or epic scenes of cattle drives and cowboys.

In the 1980 painting Clearing the Palo Duro, Clymer painted the thunderous arrival of a herd of buffalo to the Palo Duro Valley, known by many as the Grand Canyon of Texas. The scene is filled with wildlife, but it tells a simple story: the buffalo are the unrivaled champions of the land. As the herd breaks through a small creek, critters of all shapes and sizes scatter away from the surging wall: mule and whitetail deer, a black bear, quail, wild turkey, ducks and a pair of wolves. Clymer’s images have cinematic qualities to them, including in their size and scope, but also due to the dramatic tension he creates with his lively and action-packed compositions. He finds ways to use the entire canvas to tell his stories, and Clearing the Palo Duro is no exception. The artist hides a clue as to the cause of the stampede in the far back left of the painting, amid the chaos of the dust and destruction. There, in hazy silhouette, is a human figure with a rifle raised high into the air.

“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,” Clymer wrote in John Clymer: An Artist’s Rendezvous with the Frontier West. “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.”

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