Olaf Carl Seltzer1877 - 1957
Born: August 25, 1877, Copenhagen, Denmark
Died: December 16, 1957, Great Falls, Montana
Revealing early talent at the age of 12, Olaf Seltzer enrolled in the Danish Art School and Polytechnic Institute, a preparatory school for the Danish Royal Academy in Copenhagen. Two years later, upon his father's death, he and his mother immigrated to Great Falls, Montana. In 1892, Seltzer worked as a cowboy on a ranch. From 1893 until 1926, he worked as a locomotive repairman for the Great Northern Railroad. Seltzer sketched and drew all his life. In addition, at age 20, he began painting in oil. In 1897, Seltzer met an invaluable friend and mentor, Charles Russell. Russell immediately recognized Seltzer's talent and invited him to join sketching expeditions throughout the west. In 1921, as a result of the postwar recession, Seltzer was laid off from the railroad and turned to painting full-time. After Russell's death in 1926, he traveled to New York to complete some of Russell's commissions. Seltzer stayed in New York for two years, studying art and visiting museums as well as galleries. In 1930, Dr. Philip Cole commissioned Seltzer to do a series of one hundred miniatures on the history of Montana. In his lifetime, Seltzer covered the history and contemporary events of the west, depicting cowboys, Native Americans warriors, mountain men, wildlife, and even blacksmiths, immigrants, and barmaids. Seltzer completed over 2,500 works in his lifetime.
The National Museum of Wildlife Art's When the Land Belonged to God depicts a pack of buffalo and wolves as well as the skeletal remains of an antelope. The antelope represents the vanishing west. The protective gestures of the adult bison surrounding the young calf stress the idea of preservation of the wilderness. Seltzer developed a style similar to Russell but with notable differences. Seltzer's bold lines and colors opposed Russell's subtle atmospheres. Noted for his ability to capture action, Russell never hesitated to distort anatomy while Seltzer's depiction of nature's true colors and accurate anatomy seem to stop time.
Seltzer's work is recognized in many private collections and museums, including the Gilcrease Museum, the Museum of Western Art, the Buffalo Bill Historical Society, the CM Russell Museum, and the National Museum of Wildlife Art.