50 Features of Special Collections: Michael N. Westergard bronzes in the Michael and Margaret B. Harrison Western Research Center

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Michael Harrison with his wife Maggie Harrison collected over 21,000 volumes on the American West. Mike Harrison was particularly interested in artists of the West and tracked their work through books , journals, and western art.

Mike Harrison sought authentic views of the West. He became enamored with the work of bronze sculptor Michael Westergard for his beautiful iconic sculptures of western subjects including fauna of the west, Native Americans, the Custer Fight and other western themes.

Mike collected close to 60 bronze sculptures, likely the largest collection in private hands or museums of Westergard bronzes. Up until his passing, Mike Harrison had a standing order with the Westergard, so that he was schedule to receive the next bronze to be produced. He was on schedule to obtain the first numbered casting available for sale.

Mike loved the images of western wildlife such as bear, buffalo, and pronghorn deer, but even more so the Native American subjects with their researched authentic dress, accoutrements and poses.  Of particular interest to Mike Harrison was Westergard’s use of artist Karl Bodmer’s journals and watercolors.  Bodmer accompanied German Prince Maximillian Du Wied, on a scientific expedition and hunting trip to the American West in 1833-1834 as artist.  Westergard used the Bodmer paintings to create historically accurate sculptures of the Native Peoples they encountered.

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Westergard had to envision how to make the two dimensional paintings into 3-dimensions by considering what might have been on the backside of the subject to round out dress and accoutrements.

Michael Westergard’s career spans over 20 years. He has won numerous awards including being selected as Best Living Western Sculptor by the historical publication True West Magazine and also selected as a participating artist in the prestigious Best of Scottsdale Show held in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Westergard lists some of the major institutions that house his works including the permanent collection of the U.S. Air Force, National Park Service (such as the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument, Crow Agency, Montana) and the Favell Museum, Klamath Falls, Oregon. He pays homage to the Michael Harrison Western History Research Center, University of California at Davis which houses the most extensive collection of his work.

Visit the Westergard-Ragucci Bronze Studio website for more information about Michael Westergard.

To learn more Michael Harrison see the Michael and Margaret B. Harrison Western Research Center.

For an appointment to see the Harrison Western Research Center and the Westergard bronzes contact the Special Collections Department, University of California, Davis Library at speccoll@ucdavis.edu