John Ford Clymer (1907-1989) The Booshway 24 x 40in (Painted in 1973.)

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Lot 19
John Ford Clymer
The Booshway 24 x 40in

Sold for US$ 375,075 inc. premium
John Ford Clymer (1907-1989)
The Booshway
signed and dated 'John Clymer CA © 73' (lower left), titled (on the cross brace)
oil on canvas
24 x 40in
Painted in 1973.


  • Provenance
    The artist.

    Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum, Cowboy Artists of America 8th Annual Sale & Exhibition, September 14 - November 4, 1973, no. 17, exhibition checklist.

    Phoenix Art Museum, Cowboy Artists of America 8th Annual Sale & Exhibition [exh. cat.], Flagstaff, Northland Press, 1973, p. 69.
    W. Reed, John Clymer, An Artist's Rendezvous with the Frontier West, Flagstaff, Northland Press, 1976, pp. 106-107, full page color illustration.
    P. Weaver, The Western Paintings of John Clymer, New York, Bantam Books, 1977, pl. 31, full page color illustration.

    John Ford Clymer was born and raised in Ellensburg, a small town in central Washington on the eastern slope of the Cascades, between the Columbia River and Mount Rainier National Park. This region provided many opportunities for the outdoor pursuits he loved as a child such as fishing, hiking and camping, but far fewer for art training and mentorship. His first exposure to art came vicariously through a magazine subscription salesman, where he saw illustrations by such artists as N.C. Wyeth and Frank Schoonover.1

    As an earnest and self-motivated art student, Clymer sought training through the Federal School of Applied Cartooning, a home correspondence program. This program offered a Fundamentals of Art course, which included instruction by such artists as Charles Marion Russell and Maxfield Parrish. The course provided Clymer with the feedback and confidence he needed to pursue commercial illustration work, first locally and then nationally—all while he was in high school.2 Upon graduation, Clymer furthered his art education by attending night school in Vancouver, Canada, while working as a freelance sign painter and for several magazines in Winnipeg and Toronto.3

    Clymer took two important trips during this period: the first to the Yukon River, which provided source material for later illustrations of the Pacific Northwest, and the second to the Brandywine River area to visit one of his artist-heroes, Frank Schoonover. Encouraged by Schoonover, Clymer continued his studies in 1930 at the Wilmington Academy of Art where he was influenced by N.C. Wyeth and his students. In 1936, Clymer was living in Westport, Connecticut while attending the Grand Central School of Art and taking private classes with Harvey Dunn. After serving in World War II, Clymer began a twenty year career on the East Coast as a commercial illustrator for publications such as Field and Stream and The Saturday Evening Post in the early 1940s. In the course of his career he painted more than seventy cover illustrations for the Post alone, many of them western in subject.

    By the early 1960s, Clymer decided to pursue easel painting full-time, and his meticulous process of creating commercial illustration art turned instead toward compositions with a focus on Western History. Clymer moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 1966 in order to be closer to the subjects of his work. He and his wife Alice "painstakingly research[ed] the subject of the painting, down to the smallest details of setting, climate, and historic period. After completing their research, they would then travel to the proposed site for the painting to get a firsthand feeling for the area."4 From this level of intense preparation, Clymer produced paintings rich in accurate historical detail, and with fidelity to the geographic setting, such as The Booshway. Clymer described his approach to his work: "I think it is the accumulation of all these experiences, the research and the old stories, the trips on the old trails to actual places, the visits to history museums, large and small, that make it possible to do pictures that are real and believable and have the feeling of the place and time."5 Clymer was an active member of the Cowboy Artists of America and received First Prize in oils at the 1970 and 1972 Annual Exhibitions.

    About The Booshway Clymer wrote: "The character of the Western fur trader was heavily influenced by its French origins. Techniques and terminology related to the business of trapping and trading were already well established by the time the first Yankee arrived in the far West. The Americans based their enterprise on the French pattern. Booshway was the corrupted pronunciation of the French term bourgeois. It was used to designate the man in each party of trappers who kept the records and accounts. In this scene, the Booshway is identifiable by the boxes carried on his packhorse, which contain the expedition's paperwork.

    It was the French explorers Father Jacques Marquette (1637-1675) and Louis Jolliet (1645-1700) who discovered the Missouri River. They hoped that it would be the elusive water route through the continent to the Pacific Ocean and hence on to the Orient. Early in the eighteenth century, French expeditions ventured a few hundred miles up the lower portion of the river.

    In 1727, Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de la Verendrye (1685-1749) established a series of trading posts north of the present day border between Canada and Minnesota. He traded for furs with the Crees and Assiniboins, sending as many as 30,000 beaver pelts back to Montreal in a single year.

    La Verendrye sought to expand his trading activities further south and west in 1738. He sat out across country and found a new and plentiful supply of furs at the Mandan village on the banks of the upper Missouri near the site of present day Bismarck, North Dakota. French trappers now began to move on up the Missouri in search of beaver. Following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Americans would preempt the fur trade and the French were forced to withdraw back into Canada."6

    In the present work, a beaver trapping party, likely comprised of men of French descent, navigates over Union Pass, Wyoming. The high mountain pass, located on the Continental Divide, connects three separate mountain ranges: the Wind River Range to the southeast, the Gros Ventre Range to the west and the Absaroka Range to the north. This favorable location was used by the Shoshone, Nez Perce, Crow and other local tribes for millennia, and by white men on exploration and hunting expeditions since 1811. The Booshway, the leader of the expedition, his mount, packhorse and donkey form the center figural vignette. "Each group of trappers had a leader in charge to keep the accounts with the men—number of pelts taken and the traps, powder, lead and supplies used."7 The Booshway's record boxes sit on either side of the packhorse. A trail of mounted trappers and packhorses follow further down the hillside. Clymer creates a sense of the vastness of the landscape, and the high altitude location of the trapping party by aligning the mountain range with the Booshway, despite its great distance.

    1 W. Reed, John Clymer: An Artist's Rendezvous with the Frontier West, Flagstaff, Northland Press, 1976, p. 2.
    2 Ibid, p. 2.
    3 Ibid, p. 10.
    4 M. Duty, Cowboy Artists of America, Shelton, The Greenwich Workshop, 2002, p. 156.
    5 Reed, p. 32.
    6 J. Clymer, artist's statement affixed to the painting
    7 Reed, p. 106.
John Ford Clymer (1907-1989) The Booshway 24 x 40in (Painted in 1973.)
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