By Marguerite Madison Aronowitz
In many Prescott area locations, voices of artists from days long ago speak to us through their creations: paintings and sculptures of great beauty and imagination. For example: George Phippen's 'The Walker Party' exhibited at the library; Kate Cory's 'Migration of the Hopi Tribe in the Early 20th Century' in the First Congregational Church; and Solon Borglum's 'Sioux Indian Buffalo Dancer' on display in the Prescott Valley Civic Center. These are but a few of the many significant art pieces, executed by men and women no longer with us, that can be seen and appreciated by those willing to seek them out.
Two of Prescott's many sculptures are magnificent bronzes created by internationally renowned artist Solon Borglum. The most famous of these is the 'William O'Neill Rough Rider' monument on the Courthouse Plaza. Borglum, whose brother Gutzon designed South Dakota's Mount Rushmore, was an artist who loved the West. This is evidenced by the way his work catches the spirit of cowboys and their mighty steeds. Born in Utah in 1868, Borglum studied in Europe as a young man. His work as a sculptor of horses in western tack and saddles was highly regarded by the European community. At the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, a small version of his 'Cowboy at Rest', which can be seen on the south side of our Courthouse Plaza, was displayed along with his bronze life-size 'Stampede of Wild Horses.' This beautiful sculpture astounded viewers and made bronze history. Borglum died in Connecticut in 1922. Twenty-seven Borglum bronze miniatures are on display in Prescott Valley's new Civic Center.
Kate Cory, an important artist who studied, lived with, photographed and painted the Hopi people in northeastern Arizona before moving to Prescott in 1912, left many of her beautiful paintings in the city. Two of them, 'Carding Wool' and 'Indian Gathering,' can be seen at the Library. 'Buffalo Dancer,' 'Kopi Butterfly,' 'Migration and Return of the Kachinas' are in the Smoki Museum, along with a large fireplace painting.
Cory's acceptance by the Hopi people and their allowing her to live in their midst and share their lives was an honor never before granted a white woman. Her paintings show her sensitivity to the Native American people and their great beauty. A good friend of Prescott historian Sharlot M. Hall, Cory was active in the community where she assisted the Smoki People with their ceremonials and performances and helped design and furnish the unique Smoki Museum. She died in the Arizona Pioneer Home in 1958 at age 98. Her work can also be found in the Smithsonian Institution, State Capitol, and Sharlot Hall Museum (although not always on exhibit).
Prescott artist and sculptor, George Phippen, was a true gentleman cowboy-artist who was also a pioneer in bronze casting. Born in 1915, George grew up on a farm in Kansas where he learned about working animals and ranch life. As a youngster he modeled clay figures of animals, eventually working his way up to lifelike images of the ranch hands and cowboys who came through on the Chisholm Trail cattle drives. As he began to work in oil and watercolor, art became his life.
In 1949, George and his wife Lois came to Prescott where he tried selling his work to galleries, newspapers and magazines. When given a commission by Brown & Bigelow, headquartered in Minnesota, to paint calendar art, he rapidly established a reputation as a western artist. Before long he built a home in Skull Valley where he lived with his wife and five children and it was there that he and his brother, Harold, put together a small bronze foundry - the Bear Paw Bronze Works. Along with friends. Joe Noggle and Joe Vest, they revived the nearly forgotten process of lost wax casting of fine art sculpture-especially western art.
George continued his illustrious career until 1965 when he died at age 50. He was one of the original founders of the Cowboy Artists of America, and became its first president. Today, several significant pieces of his work can be seen in the Phippen Museum, including 'Father (Padre) Eusebio Francisco Kino,' 'Arizona Rock Hopper' and 'Father Kino and Boy.' Additional pieces are located in the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg, the Phoenix Art Museum and many other locations around the country.
Although Paul Coze was not a local artist, he did several significant pieces of art that can be seen today in Prescott. One is the 'Prelude to Modern Prescott,' an eight-panel mural on the wall of the Phippen Museum's large conference room. Incorporating local sand, gravel, stones and mosaic pieces, it depicts mountain men, prospectors, trappers, soldiers and residents of the area from 1840 to 1900.
Coze was a highly skilled artist who was born in Syria in 1903 and died in Arizona in 1974. His father was French and his mother a Russian princess. He attended art school in France and served in the French army after WWI. In 1928, he co-authored a book on American Indians whom he respected and admired. He began spending summers living on reservations in Arizona and New Mexico and became a member of seven different tribes. In 1938, he moved to the United States where he lived permanently while maintaining dual citizenship. In addition to selling his work on a commission basis, he wrote and illustrated work for Arizona Highways and National Geographic magazines.
Two more pieces of Coze's work can be seen at City Hall: a large mural on canvas and a bright oil painting of William Hickling Prescott. His work can also be found in many locations throughout Arizona.
A very colorful and significant painting by Creston Baumgartner, entitled 'Smoki People of Prescott,' is also at City Hall. Baumgartner did this interesting piece in 1969, which portrays the legendary Smoki People of Prescott. It depicts the members of the organization performing a ceremonial snake dance, similar to one performed by the Hopi, and was presented to the City of Prescott by the Smoki People.
Originally from Maryland, Baumgartner graduated from the Maryland Institute of Fine Arts in Baltimore in 1927, completing his post-graduate work at the Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. He was so impressed by Prescott after having been sent here to research cover art for Nature Magazine, that he decided to stay. During his years here, he raised his family, taught art, and was very active in the community. He was also a member of the Smoki People. Mr. Baumgartner died in Prescott in 1984. His son, John, still lives in the area.
Another artist in metal who is no longer with us, but speaks to us through his sculptures, is John Dobberteen, whose work can be seen in several Prescott area locations. The most highly recognized is the welded steel 'Arizona Moon,' which stands in the grassy median at the main entrance of Yavapai College. A second, untitled piece is located between the school's Buildings #5 and #7, with a third piece, 'Iron Tree,' part of a three-piece grouping at the top of the quad.
Dobberteen was a pilot for TWA who lived in Prescott and participated in metal sculpture classes at Yavapai College. He was president of the Mountain Artists Guild and a member of several fraternal organizations, including the Silver Eagles of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. His sculpture 'Eagle' can be seen between Buildings #17 and #19 of ERAU. Dobberteen died in 1987.
Although these extraordinary artists are no longer here to share with us, they live on through the talent and expertise displayed in their works. Those who take the time to search them out and share their dreams will not be disappointed.
(Marguerite Madison Aronowitz is a local author who recently published the guidebook "Art Treasures and Museums In and Around Prescott, Arizona," now available in local bookstores, museum stores, and the Prescott Chamber of Commerce. There will be a follow up article about recent artists.)
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (pb132f1i9)
Reuse only by permission.
George Phippen, shown here working on another fine painting in his studio in 1964, is probably Prescott's best-known artist. Many artists made their home in the Prescott area and their legacy can be found in our parks, public buildings and museums.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (pb040f4i8)
Reuse only by permission.
Kate "Kitty" Cory showing her painting 'This is the Way', c 1939-40.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (mon111pb)
Reuse only by permission.
Solon Borglum's 'Buckey O'Neill' on the Courthouse Plaza, c.1930s, is one of many of his sculptures that can be seen in our area.