Olaf Wieghorst Museum

El Cajon, CA




Olaf Wieghorst Museum Opening in El Cajon, California


Sunday. April 30, 2000 is the anniversary of Olaf Wieghorst's birthday and will be opening day for the new Olaf Wieghorst Museum in El Cajon. Plans are underway to have a celebration between 3 and 5 pm with snacks, music, art work, and lots of fun.

Local artists will have their work on display. The Wieghorst house and cantina may not be totally refurbished but the museum will open and guests will be able to review architectural drawings depicting the finished project. (left: Mary Redding, Wieghorst Home, pen and ink)

After Olaf passed away his family gave the Gilcrease Museum, of Tulsa, Oklahoma many of his personal belongings and artifacts. The museum created a fantastic exhibit to house these items, the focal point of which is a small replica of Olaf's studio.The Gilcrease Museum Directors felt that this wonderful exhibit, along with Olaf's personal items, should return to his El Cajon home.

The Gilcrease Museum is in the process of preparing the documentation necessary for the transfer. The exhibit will soon be on its way to its new home in El Cajon. Unfortunately, the exhibit will not arrive in time for the opening day on April 30.

The new museum will be located at 131 Rhea Street, El Cajon, with the house and cantina adjacent to the museum building.


About Olaf Wieghorst

Olaf Wieghorst was a self-taught artist, whose genre is the American West. He became a full-time painter in 1945 -- when he was 46 years old. In 1948 he swapped one of his paintings for a year's supply of turkeys. In 1982 a private collector bought Wieghorst's "Navajo Madonna" (oil on canvas) for $450,000. -- believed to be the highest price paid to that time for the work of a living western painter. (left: Olaf Wieghorst)

Olaf's life and careers have been intimately linked to horses. Born in Viborg, Denmark, on April 30, 1899, he was a stunt rider for a Danish circus before migrating to the United States at the age of 19. After working briefly in New York, he served in the U.S. 5th Calvary at Fort Bliss, Texas, 1919-22. For the next two years, he was a wrangler in the Southwest. Wieghorst was a New York City mounted policeman from 1924 to 1944. He married Mabel Walters of Brooklyn on October 25, 1924. Olaf, Mabel and their son Roy have lived in California since 1945. He built a studio, filled it with western memorabilia, and kept two saddle horses for riding and models.

Wieghorst traveled the West extensively, gathering materials for his paintings. On frequent visits to Indian reservations, he became familiar with the most prominent western tribes. He was a stickler for authenticity in every detail of his work. While adhering to the Remington/Russell tradition, Olaf's work was based on his own experiences and reflected his emotional ties with broad western landscapes.

Famous private collectors of Wieghorst's art include U.S. Presidents Reagan, Ford, Nixon and Eisenhower; Senator Barry Goldwater, J. P. Morgan, Leonard Firestone, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Bing Crosby, John Wayne, Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood.

The artist's work has been shown at major galleries and museums nationwide, including Grand Central Art Gallery in New York City; Maxwell Gallery, San Francisco; Camelback Gallery, Scottsdale, Arizona; San Diego Museum of Art; Phoenix Museum of Fine Art; and Whitney Museum of Western Art, Cody, Wyoming. Retrospective exhibits have been held at the Tucson Fine Art Center; the Cowboy Hall of Fame, Oklahoma City; and the Gilcrease Institute of American History & Art, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Wieghorst mastered many art mediums: oil, watercolors, pen and ink, copper etching and bronze sculpture.

"When the time comes to put away my palette and unsaddle my pony," he said, "I hope that my canvases will in some small measure add to the historical recording of an era: the cowboy, the cowpony, and the great American West."

Samuels' Encyclopedia Of Artists Of The American West by Peggy and Harold Samuels; Book Sales, Inc., 1985. says of Wieghorst:

" (He) specialized in horses of the West and was known for as an illustrator and sculptor. Wieghorst was the son of a display artist and photograph retoucher who became an engraver. He was educated in the Copenhagen public schools. Interest in horses developed while he apprenticed in a store and on a farm so he began painting in 1916. While working as a sailor in 1918, he jumped ship in New York City where he enlisted in the U. S. Cavalry for a duty on the Mexican border. During his three years of military service as a horseshoer, he learned rodeoing and trick riding. He was mustered out in Arizona, finding work as a ranch hand on the Quarter Circle 2C Ranch whose brand became Wieghorst's insignia. In 1923, he returned to New York City, graduating from the Police Academy in 1925. Assigned to the Police Show Team of the Mounted Division, Wieghorst began to paint in his spare time. In 1940, he found an agent for his paintings which immediately sold them as calendar art and as Western illlustrations. By 1942, he was receiving commissions for horse portraits and bronzes. In 1944, Wieghorst retired from the Police Department, settling in El Cajon, California in 1945. By 1955, he had a waiting list of buyers. "I try to paint the little natural things, the way a horse turns his tail to the wind on cold nights, the way he flattens his ears in the rain, seasonal changes in the coat of a horse, and psychology of his behavior. Horses have been my life."

For images of the art of Olaf Wieghorst see our article concerning the Wieghorst exhibit at Founders Gallery at University of San Diego

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

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