Born: East Hamburg, New York 1852
Died: Missoula, Montana 1919
Important pioneer Montana painter, illustrator, muralist specializing in Western Indian and settler life.
Paxson was educated in a log schoolhouse with one year at Friends’ Institute in East Hamburg. He became his father’s helper as a sign painter and decorator. In 1877, the year after Custer’s battle, he went to Montana, leaving his wife and child in Buffalo. HE worked at odd jobs in Montana, on a cattle ranch, as a meat hunter, as a dispatch rider, as a stage driver, and as a scout in the Nez Perce war (1877-78). In 1879, he brought his family to Deer Lodge, where he began to paint in oil while working as a commercial artist, painting signs, decoration saloons and theater sets. In 1881, he moved to Butte where there was more demand for his services.
He served in the Montana National Guard for 10 years, spending eight months in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. In 1905, he settled in Missoula. His most famous painting was Custer’s Last Battle on the Little Big Horn, and took six to eight (or 20) years to paint. It was nationally exhibited, producing recognition for Paxson, although his small watercolors were considered more successful artistically. His dress and grooming were in the frontier style, with long hair, full moustache, and pointed goatee.
Resource: SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing