David Stirling (1887-1971) Castle Butte Wyoming after a work by Thomas Moran Oil on Board 1922 P769

Dave Stirling was a very successful, and personally popular, artist in Colorado. A notation on the back reads, “By Dave Sterling [sic] an old time friend of my Father’s Hiram Rogers painted in 1922 {also an error] Eaton Colorado [signed] Betty Rogers Stockman”. The artist’s own notation on the back is more revealing : ‘After “Enchanted Early Morning” by Thomas Moran – Castle Butte, Wyoming” – 1922″. So this is a copy, or version, of an admired painting by one of the early giants of American landscape painting. Artists used to do this, to learn, or, as in this case, out of love.

24″ x 18″, unframed.

David Stirling was born in 1887 in Corydon, Iowa to a pioneering family, and his father was a newspaper publisher. He died in Longmont, Colorado after a short illness in 1971 and was buried there in a family plot. There were 8 children in the family, of which he was the youngest, being 7 years younger than the next youngest son, and he was the first of the family to graduate from high school. He went on to the Cummings Art School in Des Moines, Iowa in 1906-07, and also attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago in 1908-09. After traveling to the North West where his older brother had a logging business, in which he worked, he discovered that he wasn’t too interested in that kind of work. He passed through Estes Park, Colorado on this trip in 1916.

He married Kitty Wolf in Corydon, and in 1918 they moved to Estes Park for the summer months, and this became a standard trek that lasted for many years. He alternated his time between Corydon in the winter, where he maintained a studio over the local bank, and Estes Park, where his studio was variously inside the Rocky Mountain National Park and on the main street.

He painted the Rocky Mountain National Park and environs as well as other parts of the country but was most well known for his colorful aspen paintings. He worked exclusively in oils and painted on board for the most part. In the 1920s the Stirlings lived in Denver and Dave worked for the well known Meininger’s Art Materials store there. While working there he could afford canvas and did produce a number of pieces on canvas during that time.

In 1919 in the Rocky Mountain National Park, they built a studio called “Bugscuffle Ranch” along with an adjacent home where they lived in the summers. This structure was replaced in 1930 with the gallery and studio that remained until a few years after Dave’s death. He became well known for his “cultural lectures on art” which were given in the gallery on a daily basis, and were attended by thousands of visitors. His line was, “Everyone goes away smarter than when they stumbled into the joint”. He was also fond of quoting Will Rogers, on his first exposure to abstract art, when he said, “When you ain’t nothing else you’re an artist–it’s one thing you can claim to be and no one can prove you ain’t.”

Dave was an author as well and wrote several books of stories, myths and lies about the mountain west. His pen name was Pye-Eyed Pete. Dave’s wife contracted cancer, and he remained her sole care giver until her death. His daughter Hattie later also had cancer and died, and his son who was diabetic died on the dance floor of the Riverside Ballroom in Estes Park. He is survived by 4 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild (to date). His eldest grandson lives and works in Estes Park.

Dave was famous as “The Youngest of the Old Masters”, a title given him in an article, which he was quick to adopt. He painted the Rocky Mountain National Park and environs as well as other parts of the country but was most well known for his colorful aspen paintings. Dave received many awards and citations for his art work and community involvement. The Governor of Colorado presented him with a congratulatory sheep skin outlining his career on the occasion of his 50th anniversary as a resident artist of the Rocky Mountain National Park.

 

Thomas Moran’s vision of the Western landscape was critical to the creation of Yellowstone National Park. His pencil and watercolor field sketches and paintings captured the grandeur and documented the extraordinary terrain and natural features of the Yellowstone region. Moran’s artwork was presented to members of Congress by park proponents. These powerful images of Yellowstone fired the imagination and helped inspire Congress to establish the National Park System in 1916.

Thomas Moran (February 12, 1837 – August 25, 1926) from Bolton, England was an American painter and printmaker of the Hudson River School in New York whose work often featured the Rocky Mountains. Moran and his family took residence in New York where he obtained work as an artist. A talented illustrator and exquisite colorist, Moran was hired as an illustrator at Scribner’s Monthly. During the late 1860s, he was appointed the chief illustrator of the magazine, a position that helped him launch his career as one of the premier painters of the American landscape.

Moran along with Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Hill and William Keith are sometimes referred to as belonging to the  Rocky Mountain School of landscape painters because of all of the Western landscapes made by this group.