Remembering the spirit of a bygone era
Joe has devoted his art career to depicting the life and times of the fur trade era. His interest in this period of history was kindled more than 50 years ago when he first read Guthries’ classic novel, The Big Sky.
“Today I have over 400 books – perhaps 6 which are novels with the rest being journals and historical texts. The journals are remarkable. They place you in the time and at the moment. You can’t get closer to it than that.”
Growing up in Colorado has added to Joe’s appreciation and knowledge of the territory that the mountain men worked and traversed. He has traveled the Rocky Mountains from New Mexico to Canada gathering printed material, photo reference and committing to memory the beauty, the light and the vastness of it all.
In their relentless quest for profitable fur, American trappers explored new territories and blazed trails throughout the Rocky Mountains. But tantalizing reports of plentiful beaver further west, lured expeditions to the promising hunting grounds of California. By the mid 1820’s, groups of mountain men were entering the Mexican province of California, both legally and illegally.
In this painting, They Touched the Pacific, a brigade of American trappers from the Rocky Mountains reach the shores of the Pacific near Monterey, California. The have traveled across an uncharted and inhospitable desert. With little regard for Mexican authority, they will trap, trade and partake of the rich bounty of California.