Edgar S. Paxson

(1852 - 1919)


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Edgar S. Paxson

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Paxson was born near Buffalo, New York in East Hamburg on April 25, 1852. He married Laura Johnson in 1874. They came west the following year, arriving in Montana in 1877, the year after the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Paxson’s interest in this battle would become a defining element in his artistic career. Paxson was a contemporary of C.M. Russell, John Fery, and Ralph DeCamp. Paxson developed a great respect for American Indians and the tribulations they suffered with the expansion of the Frontier. He had friends among the tribes and welcomed several chiefs and tribal members in his studio to pose for paintings.

In 1878, Paxson and his family moved to Deer Lodge, where he painted signs and theatrical backdrops. In 1881, he moved to Butte, where he continued to produce commercial paintings but also established a studio to produce easel paintings of historical subjects and portraits of Indians. Paxson enlisted in the Montana National Guard. In May 1898, he was requisitioned into the Army and sent to the Philippines for the Spanish-American War.

The years after the war were productive for Paxson and he completed a number of major works-including Custer’s Last Stand, now in the collection of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center-which were exhibited at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904 and the Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland in 1905.

He and his family moved to Missoula in 1906. In 1911, he was commissioned to paint six scenes of Montana history for the Senate chambers at the Montana Capitol in Helena. In 1912, he was commissioned to execute eight paintings for the Missoula County Courthouse. Paxson worked until his death on November 9, 1919.
[Courtesy of The University of Montana]