Harry Jackson has enjoyed a stunning career spanning five decades.

By Emily Van Cleeve

In 1953 sculptor Harry Jackson wrote, “Though abstraction is basic to all art, there is a deeper human vision I must express.” A year later he sailed to Europe to study the art of the old masters and learn the meaning of tradition. During the late 1950s the once abstract expressionist painter began transforming himself into a sculptor. Jackson is now considered one of the most significant sculptors of the twentieth century, with works in museums worldwide.

Eighty-two year old Jackson has enjoyed a stunning career spanning five decades. His childhood dream was not to become an artist but to live the life of a cowboy, and he tried to accomplish his goal by hitchhiking form Chicago to Wyoming at the age of 14. When World War II broke out, he didn’t have a chance to fulfill that dream. However, his love for the west, its history and mysteries, has been captured in his heartfelt and soulful sculptures of cowboys, Indians, and the animals they loved.

Horses practically gallop off their pedestals. Life-like soldiers carry the thoughts and emotions of battle in their war-torn faces. A massive herd of cattle reminds us of the trials and tribulations of life on the range. Viewing Jackson’s work is like taking a step back in time with a master artist and historian well-versed in the intricate details of the players in the old western landscape.

Jackson’s career as a sculptor was born out of a commission for two major paintings, “Stampede” and “Range Burial,” destined for the Whitney Gallery of Western Art in Cody, Wyoming. The small wax and clay models he crafted to help him solve compositional problems in the paintings became fascinating pieces on their own. By the time Jackson had signed a contract for delivery of his work, it included two paintings and a bronze sculpture of each subject.

His magnificent bronzes are created using the ancient and traditional 6,000 year old method of lost wax casting. Jackson has been frequently asked to explain his method of casting. Since he couldn’t find an appropriate book to recommend to his inquirers, he wrote his own. Lost Wax Bronze Casting, which was first published in 1972 by Northland Press in Flagstaff, Arizona, contains detailed descriptions of each step of the casting process.

During the late 1960s and 1970s Jackson created some of his most memorable work. “Pony Express” was made in 1967 and “Stampede” was completed in 1969. Time Magazine commissioned him for the cover of its August 9, 1969 issue. “The Marshall’” one of Jackson’s most beloved works, celebrates John Wayne’s Academy Award-winning role as Rooster Cogburn. In 1986 it became part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Twentieth Century Collection.

As a result of the Time Magazine cover, Jackson and Wayne became good friends. In 1970 Wayne narrated a 50-minute documentary for television entitled “Harry Jackson: A Man and His Art.” After Wayne’s death, Jackson was commissioned to create a powerful 21 foot tall monumental equestrian for the national headquarters of the Great Western Financial Corporation in Beverly Hills. Jimmy Stewart dedicated the piece, titled “The Horseman,” in 1984.

Jackson’s work is in collections worldwide including the American Museum of Great Britain in Bath, England, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. President Ford admired Jackson’s work so much that he presented the sculpture “Two Champs” to Queen Elizabeth during our country’s Bicentennial. It was the first piece of fine art ever given by the United States as a Gift of State.

A limited number of galleries have the privilege of representing Harry Jackson’s work. At Michael Wigley Galleries the famous sculptures “Pony Express” and “Flag Bearer II” are on display. One of the five polychrome sculptures ever made of “Stampede” has an honored place in the gallery. Jackson has become famous for his polychrome bronzes, which have three or more colors on them. While Jackson is a master of sculpture, his heart is also attached to the application of color on surfaces. He says, “I was born a painter, and I’ll die a better one.”

Algonquin Chief and Warrior

The Marshall

Flag Bearer

Sacagawea II


Flag Bearer II

Flag Bearer