Gollings’ story continued in latest book by authors Ward and TempleWritten by Jennifer Womack
“In this second book they have put additional flesh on the bones of Gollings’ life as a cowboy artist in Wyoming and Montana,” writes former Wyoming Governor Mike Sullivan of Temple and Ward in the book’s introduction. “But even more, we can be grateful this remarkably talented artist chronicled the cowboy life and the western landscape not as he imagined it, but as he lived it.”
Ward, who has spent 47 years collecting Gollings’ work, says it was gratifying to be able to document the life of an artist so important to the culture and history of Wyoming.
Gollings was an artist whose work featured the things he saw while working on Wyoming ranches. Working on the F.U.F. horse ranch in northern Wyoming and southern Montana, Gollings wrote, “Horse ranching is different than cattle ranching, because in working a horse herd you’ve got to think fast, ride fast and know horses.” Not only Gollings’ artwork, but also his colorful quotes are featured throughout the nearly 350 pages that make up Ward and Temple’s latest work. History enthusiasts are also sure to appreciate the photographs and information about Wyoming, including an entire chapter on the F.U.F. horse ranch.
Information about the F.U.F. is one of Ward’s favorite aspects of this second book. “He was a real loner,” says Ward of Gollings, “there wasn’t a lot of information on his life.” He’s tried to contact decedents of Gollings’ siblings, but says he’s had little success.
Gollings’ diaries and letters he wrote to Joe De Yong, however, more than make up the difference. “The letters I gathered from several museums,” says Ward who also had some of the artist’s correspondence in his own collection. “By far, the majority of the letters to Joe De Young were in two museum collections.” Of the diaries, he says they’d earlier been compiled and edited, but adds, “I was able to buy them from several families.”
Temple says he and Ward were surprised by the success of their first book on Gollings.
Temple points out that the new book, like the first, includes copies of Gollings’ letters to his friend Joe De Yong, but this time Temple says there is two and a half times as many journal entries. “It’s one thing for an author to make comments,” says Temple, “it’s another when you have it in his own handwriting.” Joe De Yong, himself a famous artist, is the only one known to have apprenticed under Charles Russell.
In what’s called a catalog raisonne in the art world, Temple explains, “We went after it. We’ve documented, as far as is humanly possible, every image that is out there. It’s the most conclusive piece that’s ever been done on the work of Bill Gollings.”
While the first book largely featured artwork in Ward’s collections, he says the second book draws on art owned by others. He says the willingness of collectors to share their paintings and information helped make the second book possible.
“He’s known as the Wyoming cowboy artist,” says Temple of Gollings, “but people don’t realize he spent as much time in Montana as Wyoming. Between guest ranches and cattle and horse ranches, he knew the people. He knew the West. He came out in about 1896 and he got to see the West in its waning days and he got to experience it first hand.”
Organized chronologically, Temple says the book allows readers to see the influence of people Gollings met throughout his career. In 1905, he says, Gollings became friends with fellow painter Joseph Henry Sharp. In the 1920s Hans Kleiber taught Gollings to etch. Had Gollings lived longer, Temple says it would have been interesting to see the progression in this area where he showed great talent.
“People are becoming more aware of his work,” says Temple. That’s partially a result of Ward and Temple’s hard work to make sure the artist’s story was told in print. Temple will join the Wyoming Livestock Roundup in Gillette at the summer Wyoming Stock Growers convention in early June, where he’ll sign copies of the book.