born April 18, 1924
In 1956, Life magazine published a nine-page photo essay on a rising 32-year-old artist subtitled, "Harry Jackson Turns to the Hard Way."
Anyone who knows Jackson probably can't imagine a time when he took the easy way.
Around Cody, Jackson is known as an irascible artist blessed to express the grand dramas and compelling moments of the lives of cowboys, always with an infallible sense of the West.
Harry is an iconoclastic sculptor and painter straddling the worlds of realism and abstract impressionism, and whose works grace galleries from the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan, as well as the collections of Queen Elizabeth II, the Vatican and many others.
But it is the "Hard Way" of approaching his work, whether handling horses and cattle or sculpting and painting them, that brings a deep authenticity to whatever Jackson does.
"I quit my Chicago mobster family just after my 14th birthday, in April of 1938. Cody was a small town then but contains many more people since my arrival in May – more than I want," he said.
"Stay the fuck out," is Jackson's advice to those thinking of moving here.
But if you are here, stop by the Harry Jackson Museum on Blackburn Street where you will find a collection of paintings and sculptures evoking a dizzying array of influences from Jackson Pollock’s abstract expressionism, Remington, Titian, Goya and beyond.
Meeteetse was even smaller, and it was on its Pitchfork Ranch that Jackson and his lifelong friend, Cal Todd, first worked as cowboys in 1939, remaining devoted compadres until Todd died in 2003.
In 1942, at age 18, Jackson joined the Marines. In November 1943, PFC Jackson fought in the 76-hour amphibious conquest of Japan's heavily fortified Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll. There he sustained head wounds that caused grand mal epilepsy which still affects him. Fifty-eight years later, at the age of 77, Jackson entered psychotherapy to help cope with his lingering trauma, and a few years later, he found his beloved toy poodle, Fiona — a Celtic name.
"Fiona helps save my life, 'cause she is closer to mother nature than humans are," he said.
The two fly back and forth to Jackson's Italian home, where they spend two months each fall and spring.
He first went to Europe in 1954 to study Renaissance masters like Giotto and Donatello.
But Cody will always be Jackson’s base camp, where many of his acclaimed works are on display in the Buffalo Bill Historical Center and at his own museum.
Though the art world prefers its works neatly divided into ready-made categories, Jackson continues to choose the “Hard Way,” confounding critics by creating new categories and exploring uncharted paths.
He must be doing something right. Life magazine published its last newsstand edition in 2000. Eight years later, Jackson is still creating art the "Hard Way."
For any true master, is there any other way?
— text edited and altered by Harry Jackson