Nature and wildlife artist Tucker Smith has spent nearly half of his 80 years in the shadow of Wyoming’s Wind River Range and another 30 years in neighboring Montana. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, he moved west with his family at 12 and has devoted his artistic life to capturing the West’s wildlife, mountainous beauty, and ranching culture.
An exhibition debuting in May at the National Museum of Wildlife Art spans the artist’s long and wide-ranging career, which began in earnest at age 31 after he had worked for nearly a decade as a computer programmer and systems analyst and had only painted on the side. Tucker Smith: A Celebration of Nature features more than 75 original oils, with pieces from his early days through his most recent works and covering the subjects he knows and loves so well: Western wildlife, camp and cowboy scenes, and dramatic landscapes.
“Tucker Smith is one of the most important and accomplished artists working in the western American outback today,” says guest curator B. Byron Price, director of the Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West at the University of Oklahoma. “He communicates through a seasoned and sympathetic lens. His work helps viewers reestablish connections to the natural world.”
Highlights of the traveling exhibition, which features a full-color catalog, include The Refuge (1994), The Season (2005), and Rabbit Bush, Lupine, and Sage (2002). Among Price’s favorites are Return of Summer, which was the winner of the Prix de West in 1990, and Box R Pack String (1989), the original of which, on loan from Joffa and Bill Kerr, has hung across from Price’s desk in his office at the University of Oklahoma for more than a decade. “A silent string of horses heads along a mountain trail, their shapes reflected in a lake below,” Price says. “To me the scene is both timeless and evocative. I never tire of this work. It makes me want to saddle up and follow where the horses lead.”
Smith’s work has that immediate effect and, Price hopes, a more lasting impression: “I hope viewers of this show will be reminded of the beauty of open spaces and the wildlife that inhabits them and will be moved to preserve it for future generations.”
Tucker Smith: A Celebration of Nature will be on view May 23 – August 23 at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming.
Images courtesy Autry Museum, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Collection of Joffa and Bill Kerr
From our May/June 2020 issue.