Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1877, Olaf Carl Seltzer (1877–1957) grew up fascinated with natural history. His youthful talent at drawing gave him entry into a school designed for special instruction in the arts, where he excelled. In 1892, Seltzer and his immigrated to the United States and Montana specifically, a move that inspired the future artist’s lifelong interest in the landscape and history of the American West.
Soon after his arrival in Great Falls, Seltzer was employed by several horse outfits where he acquired first-hand knowledge of life on the range. In 1893, he went to work as an apprentice machinist for the Great Northern Railroad, pursuing in his spare time a passion for painting and sketching. Seltzer met Russell in 1897, and an artistic friendship between the two men blossomed, solidified by their mutual interest in conserving the wildlife and landscape of the west and in preserving western history.
The hallmark of Seltzer’s style is his meticulous attention to detail and constant study. A consummate observer, Seltzer would often going on sketching expeditions, spending hours drawing the natural world that surrounded him and the movements and features of Montana’s wildlife. In an effort to guarantee authenticity in his subjects, he would pour over volumes in the public library, whether creating images of Northern Plains Indians or imagining medieval scenes out of history books. The vibrant intensity of Seltzer’s oil paintings is a direct reflection of the artist’s curiosity and constant experimentation with the effects of light, color, and pigment saturation in oil paints. This exhibition will be on view at the C.M. Russell Museum from May 20, 2017 through October 15, 2017.
Image: O.C. Seltzer, Dawn, 1927, oil on canvas. Collection of the C.M. Russell Museum; Gift of Mary Agnes Graham Roberts in memory of R.M. Graham and R.E. Sears Families