Death On The Range

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This desire to communicate is superbly illustrated by the two paintings in this issue. The first to be completed was The Range Burial, a ten by twenty-one foot work commissioned in 1958 by the Coe Foundation of New York for the Whitney Gallery of Western Art in Cody, Wyoming. It represents six years of work: “I wanted to express,” Jackson says, “how deep and authentic the respect for the dead can be on the part of ordinary men, with no trappings, and how nothing more than that is required. I was not interested in illustrating the specifics, so I didn’t show the cuts and bruises on the dead man’s body.” The second canvas, The Stampede, some nine and a half feet by almost twenty-one, was completed in 1960 and actually comes first in the story-telling sequence, for it shows how the dead man in the earlier picture was killed. “It was the overall pervading state I was trying to express,” Jackson explains, “absolute chaos, hell-for-leather chaos. The death of the man was incidental—though not unimportant. Chaos, when all hell breaks loose—that was the important thing.”

After seeing these two paintings, one understands fully what Peter Hurd meant when he called Jackson a man whose “mission is to communicate.” Jackson himself has said that he wanted his paintings to “talk”; no one can doubt that in these two works he has given to canvas a tongue.