Friday, March 19, 2010

Bill Stockton ...

I'm not embarrassed to admit that I'm a fan of traditional "Western" art ... the Charlie Russell sort of stuff that nearly everyone associates with Montana. It's unfortunate, though, that the genre has become a cliché ... because it's cost western art some of its respect, and because it's saddled the broader Montana art community with a stereotype that doesn't always fit. Our state has a very diverse creative legacy -- even among those who live the ranch life, it's much more than just cowboy art.

One of the artists that last statement brings to mind is a man named Bill Stockton. Bill Grew up in the country around Grassrange and Winnett, and then served in the Army in World War II. He used his GI Bill money to attend art school, and then headed off to Paris ... but then after a year, he came back to Grassrange and spent the rest of his life as a sheep rancher. He kept painting, though, and by the end of his life he had a devoted Montana following. His work was abstract and often spare, evoking the central Montana landscapes in poignant and characteristic ways.

Bill died in 2002, and was later eulogized in a poem by Rick Newby which reads, in part:
Even at the end, his line unfailing,
he painted without stinting. And we are pierced:
By tenderness, by a quiet intensity
of yearning we can scarcely bear.
This is a shot someone took of Bill out on his ranch in the 1970s ... next time, I'll give you an example of his work.


  1. His website should surely be included in your compilation of links re Montana. He was a new one to me, but what a neato revelation. The video and gallery are certainly worth browsing for anyone who would understand Montana.

    Car servicing tomorrow...the countdown has begun. Mother Nature has 3 weeks to straighten out her issues with those of us who need to travel. She's being incredibly bitchy this year.

  2. Angh!

    If you haven't seen Bill Stockton's book, you should definitely give it a look sometime. It's a short read, but very poignant ... and anyone who feels at home in rural Montana will certainly appreciate the thoughts it expresses.

    And yep, I'm getting anxious to travel, too! Just have to figure out someplace to go, now ...

    Keep me posted on your travel plans, and take care!