American painter, photographer, and ethnographer Frederick Weygold studied the life and culture of North American Indians, presenting his findings artistically and scientifically.
Though he was once locally known for painting the iconic “Old Kentucky Home” and for working to save Cumberland Falls from being developed for hydroelectric power, Frederick Weygold had become nearly unknown in his adopted home of Louisville, Kentucky. Fortunately, the city’s prestigious Speed Art Museum recently revived his memory with a comprehensive exhibition and companion catalog devoted to Weygold’s life’s work: Native American art and artifacts.
For anyone who missed the Speed’s exhibition Picturing American Indian Cultures: The Art of Kentucky’s Frederick Weygold, which ran in early 2017, the book Frederick Weygold: Artist and Ethnographer of North American Indians, by Christian Feest and C. Ronald Corum, makes for an engaging substitute. It’s the first in-depth account of Weygold’s achievements as an artist, collector, educator, and social activist — and a gorgeous catalog of the impressive legacy he left to the Speed.
He was a man on an artistic and ethnographic mission. Born in 1870 in St. Charles, Missouri, Weygold spent time studying languages and art in Germany, where it’s possible he saw traveling Wild West shows. Fascinated with Native Americans, he learned all he could about their cultures and even taught himself the Lakota language. Later in Philadelphia, he met Lakotas performing in Wild West shows and collected Lakota texts and made drawings of Native American artifacts. In 1909, he traveled from Louisville, where he’d settled the year before, to South Dakota to visit the Pine Ridge reservation; there he acquired artifacts for a museum in Hamburg, Germany, and documented tribal life, including the first photographs of the Plains Indian sign language.
The book richly curates examples of Weygold’s work as a painter, illustrator, photographer, and collector of Native American art and artifacts. Whether you pore over or leaf through, you’ll appreciate the expertise and affinity that infused Weygold’s own art and collecting as well as the illustrations he did for books by Dakota author Charles Eastman and by Western writers James Willard Schultz and Stanley Vestal.