Organizations* : NA, NIAL, NSS
James Earle Fraser is best known as the sculptor of the masterpiece The End of the Trail. This sculpture, which is now regarded as an American icon, portrays an Indian brave who is weary, defeated and exhausted, on a horse in the same helpless condition. Fraser conceived of the work when he was still a teenager, and it is recognized as a symbol of the history of the American Indian.
At age eighteen, with obvious art talent, Fraser began studies at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he studied sculpture with Richard Bock. By age twenty, he was a student in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and also studied at the Julian and Colarossi Academies. At age 22, he became an assistant in New York City to Augustus Saint- Gaudens before opening his own studio in New York. Fraser’s first important commission was a bust of Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, and in 1913, he designed the U.S. Buffalo Nickel, using three different models to get a single portrait. The bison on the reverse side was modeled after one named Black Diamond at the New York Zoo.
Two years later he completed The End of the Trail, using the Seneca Chief John Big Tree as the model for the figure. Cast at the Roman Bronze Works, it was originally modeled in 1894. A small version was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1898 where it won the American Artists Association John Wanamaker Prize. The full size 18-foot sculpture was exhibited at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915, while the original 18-foot plaster version was acquired in 1968 and restored by the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.
Fraser’s professional artistic career covered the entire first half of the twentieth century, from the beginning of his study in the 1890’s in Chicago and Paris until his death in 1953. His early works were very sensitive and polished, and he first became known for his busts of children and as a designer of medals, but later changed to a more commanding and monumental style. Fraser designed and created many public monuments, generally after 1930. Most are located in Washington, D.C. and New York. It is believed that during his career, Fraser received more commissions for patriotic monuments than any other artist in America, although his name is associated with few of them.
Reference: AskArt.com, Fred Myers - Director, Gilcrease Museum