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Ted Turner’s Bierstadt Vision of the American West

Posted by Richard Conniff on July 27, 2013

634x375Ethos2_1512I like the idea that art and science are far more closely related than people tend to think, and I’ve also always regarded Ted Turner as one of my favorite Philistines.  So check out this account of how Bierstadt and other great landscape artists helped shape his ideas about conservation:

MORE THAN 20 YEARS AGO, ON THE FIRST MORNING I EVER INTERVIEWED TED TURNER, THE FAMOUS “MEDIA MOGUL” WAS IN THE NASCENT STAGE OF ASSUMING A NEW IDENTITY: WESTERN “BISON BARON.” Turner, the pioneering founder of 24-hour news, stood in front of a plate-glass window and directed my attention toward a distant green pasture at his Flying D Ranch in Montana.
Miles away, a herd of bison peppered foothills in the Spanish Peaks, a northward trending, white-summited spur of the rugged Madison Range. Once Turner had my attention, he motioned back into his rustic living room where we were standing. He pointed to artworks by Albert Bierstadt, Karl Bodmer and George Catlin.
Romantically conceived, and in some ways documentarian in their portrayals of the West, they were originally created during the 19th century when the region was still wild — prior to the human-caused, near annihilation of 35 million iconic bison; elk, deer and pronghorn herds; enclaves of bighorn sheep and mountain goats; grizzly bears, wolves, beaver and trumpeter swans, among a larger litany.
In response to my question — “Mr. Turner, what is the vision you have for your property?” — he alluded to a mood of enchantment that still radiated from the artistic surfaces. He said, “I want my land to look and feel like those.”
What most readers may not realize is that art has always served as a powerful reference point for Turner …
To read the full story from Western Art & Architecture, click here.  (And beware the heavy dose of sucking up to the rich.)

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