"Wagon Master" Wagon Train

  • Details

    Western cowboy wagons horses

  • Biography

    Nick Eggenhofer (1897 - 1985)

    Born in Gauting, Bavaria, Nick Eggenhofer became a painter of the romance of the American West with its cowboys and Indians. He has a reputation for historical accuracy from careful research and also as an authority about frontier western transportation.

    He was first exposed to the lore of the American West by hearing about Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Germany from older relatives who had seen performances. American western movies continued to stir the interest.

    In 1913, at the age of sixteen, he came to America with his family from Germany, and three years later he enrolled in night art classes at Cooper Union in New York, something he did for four years. During the day he studied lithography at the American Lithography Company, a place that trained many successful artists.

    He established an illustration studio in New Jersey and made a living as a commercial artist, illustrating hundreds of western magazines and books between the 1920s and 1940s. He became a collector of western artifacts including saddles, guns, and Indian paraphernalia. He also wrote and illustrated his own book titled "Wagons, Mules, and Men: How the Frontier Moved West," a detailed, comprehensive volume on pack animals, wagons, carts and stagecoaches used to transport people on the western frontier. For the Whitney Gallery of Western Art in Cody, Wyoming, he made a series of ten scale models of Conestoga Wagons.

    In the 1960s, he moved from his home in West Milford, New Jersey and settled in Cody, Wyoming, the town named for Buffalo Bill Cody, the man who first aroused his interest in western life.

    Walt Reed, "The Illustrator in America"
    Peggy and Harold Samuels, "Encyclopedia of the American West"
    Nick Eggenhofer was one of the most popular illustrators of western story magazines and books in America from the 1920s to 1940s.

    Born in Gaunting, Germany, Eggenhofer grew up reading the Old West adventure novels popular in Germany at the time. As a youth, he saw the 1898 movie, Buffalo Bill's Wild West, and experienced a live Wild West show in Munich in 1909, clinching a life-long fascination with the American frontier.

    At age 16, Eggenhofer emigrated to New Jersey under the sponsorship of an uncle. While working at various jobs, he made drawings and paintings, and collected images of the West as reference for his art. In 1916 he began four years of night classes at the Cooper Union and apprenticed at American Lithograph Company during the day.

    In 1920 Eggenhofer made his first art sale-three western watercolors-to the firm of Street and Smith, publishers of the highly popular Western Story Magazine. When a strike shut down American Lithograph, he joined the staff of Street and Smith producing pen and ink drawings for the magazine.

    Eggenhofer married in 1924 and the next year the couple set out in their Model T for his first trip West, visiting Santa Fe, Taos and the Grand Canyon. Eggenhofer was not disappointed with the country he had dreamed of all his life. Not surprisingly, he felt it gave his work "a new perspective, a new dimension, a new point of view." Returning East, he built a log cabin studio in Milford, New Jersey.

    Eggenhofer carefully researched his subjects, poring over books in libraries to ensure the accuracy of his depictions. As he became more prosperous, he also collected western artifacts, a practice shared by most painters of the Old West. He was especially fascinated with modes of transportation in nineteenth century America, and sometimes built scale models of wagons in order to learn their construction. In 1961, he wrote an illustrated a book on the subject entitled, Wagons, Mules & Men: How the Frontier Moved West.

    Because most of his work from the 1920s through the 1940s was western story illustration, Eggenhofer became highly skilled at rendering action scenes of Indians, cowboys and outlaws. Much of his output was in ink, and these images reveal an excellent sense of design and the bold, dynamic compositions required of pulp magazine illustrations. His paintings often have more stable (even static) compositions and are intensely colored. He painted in a detailed, realistic style but with choppy strokes, often of pure color, giving the paintings a somewhat impressionist quality. He estimated that he made about 30,000 drawings and paintings for pulp magazines and novels over the course of his career.