Grand Teton National Park's art collection has grown by one. A landscape painting of the Tetons by the late Harrison R. Crandall, who made a career photographing and painting the Tetons, has been donated to the park by his daughter, Quita Crandall Pownall, and her husband, Herb Pownall.
Created in the mid-1960s, the fine art painting depicts a classic Teton scene with mountain peaks partially obscured by clouds and autumn-tinted aspens. The painting will eventually hang in the Jenny Lake Visitor Center — Crandall’s former art studio and showroom — an historic log structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Harrison “Hank” Crandall was born November 23, 1887, in Newton, Kansas, and raised on the Midwest plains. Crandall was inspired as a young boy to photograph the Teton Range after seeing a William Henry Jackson photo of the rugged mountains in a grade school geography book.
After studying art at the School of Art and Design in Los Angeles, California, and serving in World War I, Crandall moved west at the age of 25 and settled briefly in Idaho. He first visited Jackson Hole in 1921 and returned the following year with his bride, Hildegard “Hilda,” to make a permanent home. With photographic equipment and camping supplies in hand, the Crandalls spent their first summer scouting locations for photographs, while camping with two friends in what is now Grand Teton National Park.
As artist and photographer of the Teton landscape, Crandall became both a Jenny Lake homesteader and a fervent early supporter of the establishment of the park. And with the growth of tourism, Crandall also became one of the earliest concessionaires, selling national park souvenirs and art.
In 1924, he and Hilda homesteaded 120 acres northeast of Jenny Lake and opened the String Lake Dance Pavilion. Although immensely popular with valley residents and “dudes” from local dude ranches, the summer-run, open-air dance hall operated for only 2.5 years because Hank wanted to focus on opening an art studio. He designed his rustic log structure to withstand heavy snows, incorporating sky lights for added natural light and an intricate cross-hatch pattern on the ceiling. Wood from the dismantled dance pavilion was used by local artisans to build the log cabin in 1925 and 1926, and the Crandall Studio opened in 1927.
Hand-painted photo postcards of ranch life and the Teton landscape became very popular. Later offerings included paintings, photographs, cameras and film, animal skins, and Navajo rugs. In 1929, when the Snake River Land Company bought the Crandall property, Hank received one of the first concession permits in Grand Teton National Park and relocated his studio nearer to Jenny Lake.
It was relocated again in about 1960 and finally moved to its present site in 1991, where the historic building received treatment to rehabilitate and restore its logs, flooring and fireplace.
Crandall’s oil paintings often depicted scenic Teton landscapes but he is also known for paintings of 32 species of wildflowers, which provided an invaluable ecological record of the Jackson valley to the U.S. Biological Service during the 1920s to1940s.
Through his art, Crandall became an influential promoter of Grand Teton National Park and the National Park Service, inspiring and informing countless people and future generations. He died in 1970 at the age of 83. His daughter Quita Pownall, an artist herself with formal art training, was occasionally tutored by her father; she hand-painted many of the Crandall photographs, including his wildflower panels.
Crandall’s painting will be added to the Teton Collection, which serves as a testament to the crucial role that art has played in preserving Grand Teton National Park and other public lands, and reflects the historic significance of artwork throughout the greater Jackson Hole area. Initiated by the Grand Teton Association (formerly Grand Teton Natural History Association) in the late 1950s, this eclectic art collection features work by John Clymer, Olaus Murie, Conrad Schwiering, Jim Wilcox, Joanne Hennes, and Harrison Crandall.
These artists, and many others, found creative inspiration from the Teton landscape, and each skillfully captured the spectacular scenery and wild inhabitants of this region. Much of the Teton Collection is now showcased in the art gallery at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose, Wyoming. The Grand Teton Association is currently in the process of creating an informational brochure to hand out at the gallery that will provide an overview of all the artists and their paintings.
The Jenny Lake Visitor Center — historic Crandall Studio — is located eight miles north of Moose Junction on the Teton Park Road and open daily from late May through late September. It is scheduled to close for the 2008 season on September 27.