The Surging, Thundering Herd: Vintage Bison Engravings, 1758-1910
Curator and collector Lee Silliman’s traveling exhibition The Surging, Thundering Herd: Vintage Bison Engravings, 1758-1910 hits five museums across the state of Montana, including Yellowstone Art Museum, and features a variety of more than 50 original engravings depicting bison, an iconic beast and classic representation of the American Western frontier. The exhibition features engravings from Silliman’s print collection and includes steel and copper engravings (1700s to early 1800s), woodblock engravings (mid 1860s to the end of the 19th century) and chromolithographs, color engravings made from different types of stone depending on the color (mid-1800s to beginning of the 1900s). Some of the steel engravings are hand tinted, which involves taking transparent watercolors, tinting them and applying the color by hand with a brush, a process normally done by machine.
Engravings are a subcategory of collecting that Silliman says he has been working on for the past 25 years. “It takes years and years to assemble the kind of collection I have,” says Silliman. “As I collect these, I get enough to
create a theme.” He continues, “[Bison] were central to high plains Native American culture. I’ve long been fascinated by our history with Native American people and our relationship with them as time progressed. Secondly, [bison] are the largest animals in the American West.” Prominent artists whose works are featured in this exhibition include Frederic Remington and Karl Bodmer.
Silliman is a one-man show, explaining his process: he purchases the artwork, does his own custom matting and framing, and then conducts the historical research to supplement the artwork. “I’m a historian, I’m more than just a print collector,” he says. Silliman explains that he draws upon books written in the first person from Western frontier explorers and uses direct quotes about their experiences encountering bison to supplement the artwork on display in this exhibition. “For me, [viewing artwork] is just the beginning of the experience,” Silliman says. “I want to know the story behind the picture.”
The exhibition will be on view at Yellowstone Art Museum from August 16 through October 14.
Frédéric Theodore Lix (1830-1897), Indiens des Prairies Chassant le Bison, 1892, chromolithograph.
Frederic Remington (1861-1909), Conjuring Back the Buffalo, 1892, wood engraving.
P. Sumner, A Prairie Fire, 1890,chromolithograph.
Unknown artist, Bison, 1880, chromolithograph.