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Paul Salisbury
Riders of the Range

The Artist - Paul Salisbury

Western Realist Paul Salisbury has probably achieved more notability and respect as a Cowboy/Western landscape painter than any other painter of these scenes.  His oil paintings represent nature and its inhabitants with subtle realism.  Throughout his life, he was devoted to scenes and history of the American Indian and the Western Cowboy.

Salisbury's early years were spent on his father's ranch in Richfield, Utah, near the Kanosh Indian Reservation.  There he gained a sympathetic awareness and understanding of the western landscape and its inhabitants.  During his younger years, he worked for his father on the family ranch, but as often as possible Paul took off by himself and drew the scenery and animals around him.

Salisbury received formal art training under his uncle, Cornelius Salisbury, who encouraged him in his artistic pursuits.  Paul continued his formal education at Brigham Young University under B. F. Larsen and E. H. Eastman.  He also was privately instructed by LeConte Stewart, a noted Utah landscape artist.  Despite his early training as an artist, it was not until later years that Salisbury was able to work continuously as a painter.  When he did, he attracted a great deal of attention, and people throughout Europe and the United States commissioned him to paint for them because he was well-known as a Western Americana artist.

Riders of the Range was painted in 1953.  As evident in this painting, Salisbury taught his students that there are no harsh colors in nature.  Here, he has rendered the desert in soft, pastel hues and earthtones.  These light colors and the use of short, invisible brushstrokes create a soft texture that when combined with his treatment of light adds to the calm atmosphere created in the painting.

The Art

PAUL SALISBURY (1903-1973) Provo
Riders of the Range, 1953
oil on canvas, 30" x 36" (76.5 x 91.6 cm)
Gift from Max and Kolene Knight, Springville  1990.007

The growing trend during the 1950s and 1960s toward Cowboy/Western art manifested itself in the paintings of Paul Salisbury of Provo.  He was Utah's first significant "Cowboy and Indian" artist.  As one of Utah's very few professional artists, he worked full time on his art and was not affiliated with a university or another occupation.

It is apparent that Salisbury's conservative painting style was perfectly suited to traditional Utah tastes.  Riders of the Range  illustrates Salisbury's ability to create unity in his paintings by using a consistent tonality and bold composition.  Utah art, as a whole, was not figuratively  based, but rather it was grounded upon landscape.  However, in this painting, the artist has effectively composed two cowboy figures, additional horses, and cattle within a desert landscape, creating a powerful, authentic image.  The painting is dated "1953," the only year Salisbury dated any of his works.

Visual Art Core Curriculum - Utah State Office of Education

Under the Standard of Making, this print can help the student:

  • paint with complementary color schemes.
  • create the appearance of space by drawing distant objects smaller and with less detail than objects in the foreground.
  • establish more natural size relationships between objects.
  • render cast shadows as falling opposite their source of light.
  • explore with the following drawing techniques to increase perception/rendering skills:
    • Draw quickly:  have the students draw a simple object found in the room.  The drawing should only take five seconds to complete.  Drawing quickly forces the student to perceive the object and then render only its basic concepts of size and shape.
    • Draw from memory:  have the students handle and observe a simple object (for example, their shoe, a stapler, a tape dispenser) for a couple of minutes.  Encourage the students to take mental notes as to the relative size and shape of the object.  Have the students place the object out of sight and then draw the object using their memory.  Compare completed drawings with the actual objects.
Under the Standard of Perceiving, this print can help the student:
  • see how to create a work of art that uses contrast to create a focal point.
  • observe how line can help define the contour of a three-dimensional form (for example, the folds of the shirt define the anatomy of the cowboy, the saddle defines the form of the horse).  Note:  contour is not just the outline of the object, it includes all the edges (interior and exterior) and surfaces of the object.
Under the Standard of Expressing, this print can help the student:
  • explain its possible meanings or interpretations.
  • invent possible stories that may explain what is going on in this painting.
  • group other works of art with similar themes or subject matter with this work.
  • provide an example of how to create symbols or motifs in art that express individual or group interests.

Under the Standard of Contextualizing, this print can help the student:

  • predict how a work of art or a craft can be connected to an older or ancient culture.
  • describe why a local craft or art form looks like it was made in your area.
  • explore the use of artworks to document historical data.

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February 25, 2017
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