Thomas Nygard Gallery - 19th and 20th Century American Art



William Henry Dethlef

W.H.D. Koerner was brought to Clinton, Iowa in 1880 from his birthplace of Lun, Germany.  By 1896 he was a staff artist at the Chicago Tribune earning $5.00 a day.  Following attendance at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Francis Smith Art Academy he was art editor of a literary magazine in Battle Creek, Michigan.  From 1905-1907 he studied at the Art Students League in New York City.  In 1907 he moved to Wilmington, Delaware, working as an illustrator under the tutelage of Howard Pyle until 1911, along with N.C. Wyeth and Harvey Dunn.  By the 1920's he was one of the best known magazine and book illustrators.  His study with Frank Breckenridge had provided the use of "broken color" and "commercial impressionism."  With these two assets his palette became full and vibrant.


In 1922 Koerner was given the commission to illustrate Emerson Hough's The Covered Wagon, published serially by the Saturday Evening Post.  By 1924 he was spending his summers in a log cabin near the Crow Indian Reservation in southern Montana.  He also visited California and the Southwest. Koerner became truly the "illustrator of the eastern myth, of symbols of an earlier, less complicated, infinitely more moral land of ample time and room to roam."


He received $1,000.00 for cover illustration for the Post, an extraordinary sum for the time.  His painting garb was a smock over his knickers and golf socks with saddle shoes.  After his death, hundreds of painting were in his studio, along with drawings, sketchbooks, and artifacts.  His widow kept the studio intact until 1962, when exhibitions demonstrated that Koerner had been an important Western painter.  The studio is now displayed intact at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center's Whitney Museum of Western Art in Cody, Wyoming.

(1878 - 1938)

Back to Inventory

133 East Main Street

Bozeman, Montana 59715

 phone: 406.586.3636