Art to Im­press

The mag­nif­i­cent, and still grow­ing, col­lec­tion of Naoma Mclach­lan shines in Cody, Wyoming.

Western Art Collector - - CONTENTS - By John O’hern

As a young girl, Naoma Mclach­lan, who was born in Salt Lake City, vis­ited the Uni­ver­sity of Utah’s Mu­seum of Fine Art. Fas­ci­nated by the works from French paint­ings to Egyp­tian ar­ti­facts she said “I’d like to learn how all these were made and the his­tory be­hind them.”

She par­tic­u­larly re­calls a por­trait of Nat­acha Ramova who was also born in Salt Lake City as Winifred Kim­ball Shaugh­nessy and was mar­ried briefly to Ru­dolph Valentino. She later be­came a renowned Egyp­tol­o­gist and do­nated her im­por­tant col­lec­tion of Egyp­tian ar­ti­facts to the mu­seum in 1954. The ro­mance and ded­i­ca­tion of Ramova’a life had a last­ing im­pact on Naoma’s own life.

She be­came a cer­ti­fied gemol­o­gist and, in 1979, mar­ried Harold “Hal” Tate. Hal had been a mem­ber of the board of trus­tees for the Buf­falo Bill His­tor­i­cal Cen­ter and had de­vel­oped a fond­ness for Cody, Wyoming. He and Naoma pur­chased Big Hat Ranch there in 1999. He died in 2003.

The col­lec­tion of the art of the Amer­i­can west at Big Hat Ranch is ex­traor­di­nar­ily fo­cused and has some of the best ex­am­ples of work by artists who worked in the re­gion.

Donna L. Poul­ton, who was cu­ra­tor of Utah and West­ern Art at the Uni­ver­sity of Utah’s Mu­seum of Fine Arts for eight years, is now cu­ra­tor of the col­lec­tion and di­rec­tor of the Hal R. and Naoma J. Tate Foun­da­tion. She de­scribes Naoma’s cri­te­ria for her col­lec­tion.

“The work should have been painted pri­mar­ily in Wyoming or sur­round­ing states (Mon­tana, Colorado, Utah, Idaho). The work should be com­pleted around the turn of the cen­tury—roughly 1850 to 1930. The work should re­flect (A) the flora and wildlife of Wyoming and (B) the cow­boy way of life. The work should re­flect life in real time.” She adds, “Naoma be­lieves that inan­i­mate ob­jects hold the en­ergy of their maker. Whether it is a wo­ven rug or a piece of porce­lain or sil­ver, the more work and de­tail the artist ded­i­cated to the work, the more en­ergy it con­tains. This is true of paint­ings and sculp­tures as well. She likes to see that a work was well con­sid­ered, that it con­tains the power that a life­time ded­i­cated to craft can be­stow.”

I re­marked on the un­usual col­lec­tion of

small por­traits of an­i­mals by Carl Rungius (1869-1959), the renowned wildlife painter.

Donna ex­plains, “Naoma had al­ways wanted an A+ Rungius paint­ing. He is an artist who met much of the cri­te­ria for her col­lect­ing goals.” In­vited to a pre­view of the Scotts­dale Art Auc­tion in 2016, she and Naoma “saw this col­lec­tion of eight im­ages and were struck by how evoca­tive each por­trait was and es­pe­cially the moder­nity of Rungius’ loose brush strokes and ag­ile use of color. From what we un­der­stand there had only been one pre­vi­ous owner. That owner lived in Banff, Al­berta, Canada, where Rungius ul­ti­mately set­tled and had his stu­dio. The fam­ily had com­mis­sioned Rungius to paint ‘por­traits’ of an­i­mals indige­nous to the area. As por­traits, they do seem to each have their own per­son­al­ity—ex­hibit­ing such traits as cu­rios­ity, stealth, mis­chievous­ness, wis­dom, pride and so forth. It is such a sig­nif­i­cant col­lec­tion that Naoma can’t imag­ine not liv­ing with them ev­ery day.”

Hang­ing next to them is the com­ple­men­tary Mule Deer Buck by William Her­bert “Buck” Dun­ton (1878-1936) who was a found­ing mem­ber of the Taos So­ci­ety of Artists. “He dreamed of the West and af­ter a 1896 trip to Mon­tana,” Donna re­lates, “he spent the fol­low­ing 15 years in Mon­tana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mex­ico as a cow­boy,

hunter and artist. Naoma has two fine easel works and two il­lus­tra­tions by him.”

A spec­tac­u­lar Dun­ton, Tim­ber­line, 1932, had been on long-term loan to the Whit­ney Mu­seum of the Buf­falo Bill Cen­ter of the West and was about to be sold by the owner at auc­tion. Naoma stepped in to pur­chase the paint­ing for the mu­seum in mem­ory of her hus­band with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of other donors. She is cur­rently chair­woman of the Buf­falo Bill Mu­seum at Buf­falo Bill Cen­ter of the West and has served on the board of the cen­ter.

It is not only the qual­ity of the art in the Tate col­lec­tion that im­presses, but the in­ter­est­ing and thought­ful hang­ing of it through­out the home.

In the din­ing room, for in­stance, two paint­ings by Frank Ten­ney John­son (18741939) and Al­bert Bier­stadt (1830-1902) flank the fire­place. Poul­ton re­marks, “Frank Ten­ney John­son is an artist who ex­em­pli­fies all of Naoma’s col­lect­ing goals. He spent much of his time on his Rim­rock Ranch on the North Fork of the Shoshone River near Wapiti, not far

from Naoma’s ranch. He is an artist who loved the ranch­ing life and knew how to paint it. She owns five fin­ished easel works, two il­lus­tra­tions and one study of a land­scape. As she con­tin­ues to sys­tem­at­i­cally col­lect his work, she is telling the re­mark­able story of his ca­reer depicted through pri­mary sources—his paint­ings.”

Above the fire­place in the game room is Prairie Fire by Theodor Franz Zim­mer­mann (1808-1880). Donna re­lates, “The paint­ing was pur­chased at auc­tion in July 2016. Just a few days later, a mas­sive wild­fire came very close to en­gulf­ing the Big Hat Ranch. Given 2½ hours to evac­u­ate, the Buf­falo Bill Cen­ter of the West sent some 25 em­ploy­ees and mov­ing vans to evac­u­ate 128 paint­ings and sculp­tures. Sur­rounded by fire trucks and he­li­copters fight­ing the fire, the ranch was ul­ti­mately saved by a chang­ing wind in the mid­dle of the night.”

Naoma also col­lects work by con­tem­po­rary artists. Donna ex­plains, “Naoma likes see­ing new artists—es­pe­cially be­ing sur­prised by their work—it is not that ev­ery artist has to be ‘rec­og­niz­able to be good, it only means that they should have their own dis­tinct ap­proach. She looks for new tal­ent, but she also looks for them to stand the test of time. Liv­ing with con­tem­po­rary art and get­ting to know the artists, she can see how they progress over the years and she can also see their dis­cour­age­ment.” Naoma says, I be­lieve an artist first has to prove them­selves through hard

work, stand­ing the test of time, grow­ing, chang­ing, and hav­ing a rec­og­niz­able style. The ded­i­ca­tion to craft has to be in­her­ent in the work. There are so many ex­cel­lent con­tem­po­rary artists. It is an honor for me to own their work.”

Pur­chas­ing and dis­play­ing the art is only part of the life of a col­lec­tor. Liv­ing with it is a con­stant source of plea­sure. Naoma en­joys wak­ing up ev­ery morn­ing and see­ing the work around her. “I love liv­ing with beau­ti­ful ob­jects,” she says, “and these paint­ings tell sto­ries and al­low me to be in the pres­ence of the artists who cre­ated them. I never tire of look­ing at them.”

She con­tin­ues, “There’s more than just what’s on the sur­face. It’s the hu­man spirit, the im­por­tant thing about life that we don’t see un­less we look.”

Paint­ings in the liv­ing room are―top to bot­tom, left to right―the Thirsty Trap­per, 1850, oil on can­vas, by Al­fred Ja­cob Miller (1810-1874); Miller’s oil on can­vas, Wind River Moun­tains—in­di­ans Chas­ing Deer, 1853; Fly Fish­ing, oil on can­vas, by William H.D. Ko­erner (1878-1938); Bear at Moun­tain Lake, 1906, oil on can­vas, by Phillip R. Good­win (1881-1935); Ko­erner’s Sher­iff and Cit­i­zens of the Law, 1932, oil on can­vas; his Five Hun­dred Re­ward, 1915, oil on can­vas. In the en­try, left to right, are The Great White Throne, ca. 1920, oil on board, by John Fery (1859-1934); Michael B. Cole­man’s Un­ti­tled (Great White Throne), ca. 2003; Great White Throne, Zion Canyon, Utah, 1933, 1933, by May­nard Dixon (1875-1946). In the fore­ground is a Rus­sian bronze of a Rus­sian bear. On the cof­fee ta­ble is Herb Mign­ery’s bronze, On Com­mon Ground, 2013. Be­neath the two Millers is a per­son­al­ized bronze plat­ter, 2013, by Michael B. Cole­man. On the win­dow sill is Stalk­ing Pan­ther, 1894, bronze, by Alexan­der Phimis­ter Proc­tor (1860-1850). Be­neath it is The Seeker, 1978, bronze, by Harry An­drew Jack­son (1924-2002). In the cor­ner is The Gift, 2013, bronze, by Vic Payne. Be­hind the two leather chairs is In­dien a l’af­fut (Creep­ing In­dian), by Edouard Drouot (1849-1945). In the cor­ner of the en­try is Hear My Plea, ca. 2012, bronze, by Peter M. Fillerup. On the en­try ta­ble is Cole­man’s Septem­ber, 1997, bronze. In the cor­ner of the liv­ing room is Jack­son’s bronze, John Wayne (First Un­fin­ished Model for the Mon­u­ment), 1981.

The paint­ings around the din­ing room fire­place are—top to bot­tom, left to right—night Time in Wyoming, ca. 1930, by Frank Ten­ney John­son (18741939); In­dian Horse Race, by Al­bert Bier­stadt (18301902); Jack­son Lake, ca. 1920, by John Fery (1859-1934);John­son’s While Trail-weary Cat­tle are Sleep­ing, ca. 1935; and Bier­stadt’s In­dian Burial, Scott’s Bluff, Ne­braska, ca. 1859. To the left of the arch is Win­ter Camp of the Sioux,ca. 1930, by William Her­bert “Buck” Dun­ton (1878-1936). To the right are, top to bot­tom, In­dian En­camp­ment, ca. 1900, by Joseph Henry Sharp (18591953), and his Cheyenne Teepee. Above the arch is Ted J. Fee­ley’s Moun­tain Stage,2009. The large bronze on the left is Au Loup!, 1888, by Louis Au­guste Hi­olin (1846-1910). The Elk Antler Can­de­labra,2017, is by Jenny Booth.

In the bar are, top to bot­tom, In­ter­rupted, 1915, oil on board, by E.S. Pax­ton (18521919), and Prairie Bi­son, oil on laid can­vas, by John “Jack” Dare How­land (1843-1914).

Dolan Geiman’s Poet of the Plains, 2015, paint­ing, pa­per col­lage hangs out­side the col­lec­tor’s study. To the right of the cab­i­net, top to bot­tom, are Colter’s Coun­try, ca. 2007, oil on can­vas, by Michael Ome Un­tiedt and Buck­eye Blake’s Sage Brush Cen­taurs, 1998, gouache on pa­per. In the hall is Clyde Aspe­vig’s North Fork (North Fork of the Shoshone, WY), ca. 1999, oil on can­vas.

Through the door­way in the din­ing room is Au Loup!, 1888, bronze, by Louis Au­guste Hi­olin (1846-1910). The large paint­ing in the en­try is Lower Falls of the Yel­low­stone, ca. 2003, oil on can­vas, by Michael B. Cole­man. To the right are, top to bot­tom, Old Faith­ful, Yel­low­stone, oil on pa­per­board, by Thomas Hill (1829-1908), and Cas­tle Geyser and Well, Yel­low­stone (1887), oil on can­vas, by Grafton Tyler Brown (1841-1918). On the far right is Soli­tary Horse­man, ca. 1930, oil on can­vas, by Frank Ten­ney John­son (1874-1939). Through the door­way in the liv­ing room is John­son’s Brand­ing a Mav­er­ick, 1913, oil on can­vas.

The porce­lain rooster is by the Royal Porce­lain Fac­tory, Ber­lin (KPM). Be­hind it is Mule Deer Buck, ca. 1930-1935, oil on can­vas, by William Her­bert “Buck” Dun­ton (1878-1936). The suite of an­i­mal heads are oil on board, ca. 1945, by Carl Rungius (1869-1959). They are, left to right on the top, Elk, Big Horn Sheep, Cari­bou and Moun­tain Goat. Bot­tom row is Bull Moose, Mule Deer, Dall Sheep and Griz­zly Bear.

Be­tween the door­ways in the mas­ter bed­room is Boy with Birds (Boy Hold­ing a Bird), ca. 1846, oil on can­vas, by John Mix Stan­ley (1814-1872). To the left of the win­dow is Pro­tect­ing the Der­ricks, oil on can­vas, by Ge­orge Giguere (20th cen­tury). To the right of the win­dow is The Short Cut, ca. 1916, oil on can­vas, by Frank Ten­ney John­son (1874-1939).

Out­side the bar in the din­ing room is Grin­nell Glacier (Glacier Na­tional Park), oil on can­vas, by John Fery (1859-1934). Be­neath it is Un­ti­tled (Dear with Fawn), 19th cen­tury, bronze, by L. Rochard (19th cen­tury). In the bar is So­cialHour, ca. 2007, oil on can­vas, by Kyle Sims. The large bronze on the wall of the bar is a post­hu­mous re­lief, (1918-2015) by Charles Cary Rum­sey (1879-1922). The bronze be­neath the Kyle is Bill Cody—hard and Fast All the Way, ca. 2010, by Peter M. Fillerup.

Naoma Tate stands in front of The En­chanted Hill, 1924, oil on can­vas, by Dean Corn­well (1892-1960). A bronze sculp­ture of a cherub sits on the man­tle. A circa 1900 Navajo Third Phase Chief’s Blan­ket is on the floor.

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