J.L. Clarke (1881-1970), also known by his Blackfeet name Cutapuis – The Man Who Talks Not – was born in 1881 in Highwood, Montana. After suffering from Scarlet Fever as a child, he was left permanently deaf and mute. He was, however, highly educated, including St. John's School for the Deaf in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he learned to carve. Clarke was a multi-talented artist, working in a variety of mediums, including oils, watercolors, clays, but his reputation as an artist was built on his ability to carve bears, mountain goats, and the other wild animals of Glacier National Park.
Although Clarke is considered self-taught, he briefly attended the Chicago Art Institute but returned to East Glacier Park in 1913 and opened a studio, which he operated until his death in 1970. During his early years as an artist, Clarke signed his name as Clark, but sometime after 1920, he began to spell his name Clarke. By 1925, his work came to the attention of W. Frank Purdy of the American School of Sculpture. Purdy was so impressed, he arranged for Clarke’s work to be exhibited The Palace of Fine Arts and The New York Academy of Design. Over the years, his work would be shown in numerous shows and galleries across Europe and America, eventually earning a listing in Who’s Who of American Art. Earlier in his life, Clarke had developed a friendship with Charles Russell, who once told him, “Your work is like mine, many people like to look at it but there are few buyers…” and like Russell, Clarke’s wife became his marketing manager. Clarke’s patrons included: President Warren G. Harding, John D. Rockefeller, Charles Russell, and Louis W. Hill, the CEO of the Great Northern Railroad, among others.
Lot 168: J.L. Clarke "Glacier" Grizzly Bear Lamp.
Brian Lebel's Old West Auction - June 11, 2016