Organizations* : CAA, NAWA
Born in Gauting in southern Bavaria, Germany, Nick Eggenhofer is known as a painter of the romantic American West. He also has a reputation for historical accuracy and was an authority on frontier western transportation.
Eggenhofer grew up in Germany, familiar with horses and playing cowboys and Indians at the same age as children in America, due to a European craze inspired by Buffalo Bill’s continental tours with his Wild West show. He also saw Western movies and Remington and Russell works reproduced in German magazines, all of which served to inflame his interest in the American West.
In 1913, at the age of sixteen, Eggenhofer came to America with his family from Germany and began four years of night classes at Cooper Union, holding a variety of jobs during the day, including an apprenticeship at the American Lithography Company. Eggenhofer benefited from the classes, finally deciding to become a Western artist, preparing to paint by making scale models of wagons, stagecoaches, and other props for his works. His first illustration was sold in 1920 to Western Story Magazine of Street & Smith, the pulp publishers.
Eggenhofer established an illustration studio in New Jersey, making a living as a commercial artist. In 1925, he married and traveled out west in a model T. Even then he saw a ten-horse trader and mail delivered by buckboard. Inspired by his travels, Eggenhofer began doing illustrations for many Western books and magazines. From that time through the 1940’s, he illustrated hundreds of western magazines and books. He became a collector of western artifacts, including saddles, guns, and Indian paraphernalia, and wrote and illustrated a book titled Wagons, Mules, and Men: How the Frontier Moved West. This was a detailed and comprehensive volume on pack animals, wagons, carts and stagecoaches used to transport people on the western frontier.
In the early 1960s, Eggenhofer moved from his home in West Milford, New Jersey and settled in Cody, Wyoming, named for Buffalo Bill Cody, the man who first aroused his interest in western life. “The West got hold of me at a very early age,” he said, “and hasn’t turned loose yet.”
Eggenhofer was both a member of The Cowboy Artists of America and the National Academy of Western Art. He is in the forefront of those who portray the wagon-train era of America and has won top prize at the Cowboy Hall of Fame. In 1971, it was said that he had made more than 30,000 illustrations.
Eggenhofer died in Cody, Wyoming in 1985 at the age of 88. The National Cowboy Hall of Fame and many important private collections hold his works.