Olaf Seltzer 1877-1957
Olaf Seltzer’s paintings offer infinite variations on the image of the hero in the Old West. Friend and protégé of Russell, Seltzer did as much as anyone to maintain the sense of the mythical in Western art. His figures, whether they are still or on the move, are supremely confident, forward-looking men. In the 1913 painting, Fight for the Waterhole, Seltzer pits an angry grizzly bear—rising to become the “beast that walks on two legs”—against a cowboy on a horse that is itself rearing on two legs. With the rope connecting him to his pack horse hooked under the back of his saddle, he might meet the fate of the animal whose bones are scattered at lower right. What happens in the next few seconds will tell the tale Seltzer has begun. The landscape has some green in it, but the blasted trees indicate a barren aridity. This may be the only water for miles.