Edgar S. Paxson



Edgar S. Paxson (1852-1919) Illustration for the 1911 Missoulian newspaper. Grisaille on paper 19 x 14″ framed, signed in left margin indistinctly pax. Beautiful old quarter sawn oak frame. p.o.r.

Edgar Samual Paxson was born in Buffalo, New York. After completing school he went into business with his father who was a sign painter and decorator of carriages. Other than the training he received from his father there is no evidence of any formal instruction.

The novels of James Fenimore Cooper fired Paxson with the desire to see Indians in their original surroundings, and so, at the age of twenty five, he left his wife and child in New York and went to Montana to seek his fortune. He arrived in the winter of 1877, a year after the Custer Battle. Filled with the spirit of adventure, he worked at whatever jobs were available, reveling in danger and absorbing the myriad details of frontier life which would later serve him well as he recreated his experiences on canvas. Two years after he arrived in Montana, he sent for his family and they lived for a time in Deer Lodge. They later moved to Butte, where they resided for twenty-four years.

After serving in the Spanish-American War, Paxson turned to easel painting as his means of livelihood. He wanted to preserve great moments in the history of the West, and so undertook a series of murals for the Missoula County Courthouse depicting the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and six others which can be seen in the State Capitol building in Helena, Montana. His most famous work is the massive painting “Custer’s Last Battle on the Little Big Horn”. So all-encompassing was his conception of this historic battle that it took him six years to complete. Some of the Indian chiefs who had participated in the actual massacre posed for him. This painting secured his success and lasting popularity. He continued to paint and receive wide recognition and acclaim until his death in 1919.