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“See America First”


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185.     FERY, John. Many Glaciers Region, Glacier National Park. Original painting of a majestic Western scene with lake, mountains, and stream, buildings in left foreground. N.p., n.d. [1910 or after]. Signed “J. Fery” at lower left. Original oil painting on canvas on original wooden stretcher. Visible area in frame: 61 x 121 cm; 24 x 47-1/2 inches. Very handsome contemporary gilt frame: 30 x 53-1/2 inches, brass label plate engraved in black with title as above. Frame slightly scuffed, painting fine.

     The scene is from the area still known today as “Many Glaciers.” In the background a large mountain rises with others in the distance. In the middle ground a lake is visible, from which a swift flowing stream emerges in the foreground. Beside the lake are several structures, which probably represent accommodations built by Great Northern Railway.

     John Fery (1865-1934) was born in Austria, supposedly to an aristocratic family. He is said to have studied in Vienna, Munich, and with Peter Jansen at the Dusseldorf Academy, but it may be that Fery was entirely self-taught. He first came to the United States to conduct European nobility on hunting expeditions to the Northwest. His enthusiasm for the American West was unbounded, leading him to move to the United States in 1886, where he adopted the “Rocky Mountain Style.” He created his first landscapes of the American West between 1892 and 1893 and exhibited at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and elsewhere. He preferred tramping through the wilderness to salon-hopping. He seemed always on the go, living and working in New York, Minnesota (as a painter of panoramas), Arizona, Washington, Oregon, and California; around 1900 he worked in Utah painting many large oils of what he called “the natural wonders of the West.”

     Fery worked for the Oregon Journal and the railroads. His chief patron was the Great Northern Railway. In 1910 Louis Hill, president of Great Northern Railway, hired Fery to paint vast panoramic landscapes depicting Glacier National Park. Hill used these paintings as part of a “See America First” campaign which fêted the natural wonders of the pristine mountain wilderness and encouraged people to travel on Hill’s railroad line and stay in his hotels and lodges. Fery spent summers in the Rockies, particularly at Glacier National Park, and worked in the winter months in St. Paul producing large canvasses for display across the country.

     Like Thomas Moran, Albert Bierstadt, and Thomas Hill, Fery developed a life-long commitment to exploring, painting, and preserving the mountain wilderness of the West. The work of these artists contributed to the cultural heritage of the American West and inspired concern and public awareness for preservation and protection. Fery is credited with helping establish Glacier National Park. In 1910 President Taft signed the bill to make Glacier National Park our tenth national park.

      Peter C. Merrill, “John Fery: Artist of Rockies” in Annals of Wyoming: The Wyoming History Journal (1994, 66:1&2:2, 75):

John Fery (1859-1934) is an artist who should be seen against the background of the tradition of panoramic western landscape painting. He is perhaps best remembered for his many large canvasses of Glacier National Park in northwest Montana…. John Fery painted in broad strokes and is said to have completed most of his canvases in a short time. There are at least 150 of his paintings still in existence, most of them privately owned. About a hundred of his landscapes can be identified as to location of the scene depicted. More than half of these are Rocky Mountain landscapes, mostly pictures of Glacier National Park and of the area around Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Seventeen pictures depict scenes in California and the Pacific Northwest while another fourteen depict locations in the Southwest, mainly Utah. There are eleven paintings of Wisconsin subjects, but surprisingly only two identified as Minnesota locations. This probably reflects the fact that when Fery was living in St. Paul he was absorbed with turning out paintings of Glacier National Park for the Great Northern Railway. The remaining canvasses with identifiable locations depict scenes in New York state, Michigan, and Indiana. Only two surviving works date from Fery’s European period, a scene in Venice and a view of the Ammersee near Munich. Numbers of Fery paintings must be regarded as open-ended, however, as there are doubtless numerous paintings which are unreported and newly-discovered works keep appearing on the art market from time to time.


Sold. Hammer: $13,000.00; Price Realized: $15,600.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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