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VERSO
Artist’s label, signed, titled, and dated
Artist’s description of the painting

An original letter from John Clymer to the buyer, as well as a signed photograph will accompany the lot.

John Colter Visits the Crows 1807 won the Gold Medal for oils at the Cowboy Artists of America exhibit in 1975.

President Thomas Jefferson signed the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, completing an agreement with France. With it, the United States doubled its size adding over 800,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi. Jefferson wasn’t finished as he believed America’s border was destined to be the Pacific Ocean. To further this goal he commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to search out a practical route across the northwestern half of the continent. While doing so they were to explore and map the new territory, thus establishing an American presence before Great Britain or another European power tried to claim it.

Lewis and Clark spent the fall and winter in the village of Saint Louis gathering supplies and enlisting volunteers. Then in May 1804, the Corps of Discovery embarked on a journey that took them nearly two years before they reached the shores of the Pacific. In the spring of 1806, they began the long trek home. While passing through present day North Dakota they came upon trappers Forest Hancock and Joseph Dickson who were heading west in search of beaver. Expedition member John Colter was given an early discharge to serve as their guide.

The arrangement lasted only a few weeks and after a series of arguments Colter decided to head back alone to St. Louis. Nearing his destination he encountered other frontiersmen led by Manuel Lisa on their way to establish a permanent trading post. Once again Colter was persuaded to return to the wilderness. Upon reaching the confluence of the Bighorn and Yellowstone Rivers they built Fort Raymond. Lisa then chose four men to make contact with native tribes with Colter picked to visit the Crow. It was October when he started up the Bighorn River and before long he had to travel on snowshoes before he finally reached the winter camps of the Crow.

Colter traveled hundreds of miles through uncharted territory and was the first white man to explore the wonders of today’s Yellowstone and Teton National Parks. Upon returning to the Fort he embellished his adventures with descriptions of geysers, bubbling mud-pots and steaming pools. Many scoffed at his fanciful stories and mockingly called the land only he had seen — “Colter’s Hell.”

In the painting John Colter Visits the Crows 1807, John Clymer depicted Colter approaching an Indian village on the South Fork of the Shoshone River. To ease the tense situation he holds his rifle in the air to indicate he comes in peace, while making sign for “talk” as wary Crow braves ride forth to meet this stranger.

PROVENANCE
The Artist
Robert S. and Kitty Murray, Tucson, AZ 1975
Present owners, by descent

EXHIBITED
Cowboy Artists of America Tenth Annual Exhibition, Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ, Oct 24 - Nov 17, 1975

LITERATURE
Exhibition catalog, Cowboy Artists of America Tenth Annual Exhibition (Flagstaff, AZ: Northland Press, 1975), illustrated
Burton Harris, John Colter, His Years in the Rockies (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1993), front cover, illustrated

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