The face and dress appear to be based on a combination of 19th-century portrait of Crockett by William Henry Huddle (see References below), in which he wears a similar jacket, and the actor Fess Parker’s portrayal of Crockett in the immensely popular Walt Disney television programs. Parker wore buckskin clothing and a fur cap that was the skin of a raccoon, and carried a flintlock rifle named Betsy. First broadcast in December 1954, the TV shows kicked off a craze for Crockett merchandise. The painting was probably done when the TV show was popular, because before then Crockett was not portrayed in art wearing a coonskin hat.
The attribution of this painting to Walter Baumhofer is based on it having been part of a collection of three paintings of the same size and format, the other two being scenes of American colonial life. The other two are signed, though this is unsigned. Since Baumhofer was a popular and prolific illustrator, the group may have been part of a set of illustrations for a book or magazine. It is also possible that this painting was a promotional piece for the television show.
David “Davy” Crockett (1786-1836) was a frontiersman, orator and politician from Tennessee. After a youth spent developing his skills as a marksman, and working for farmers, cattle owners and a wagoner, he became leader of a battalion in the Creek Indian Wars (1813-14). In 1821, he was elected to the state legislature and from 1827 through 1833 he served in the U.S. House of Representatives. Defeated by a narrow margin while running for a fourth term in Congress, he left Tennessee for Texas in 1835 and immediately developed a strong attachment to his new home. In early 1836, he was among the 189 defenders who died at the Battle of the Alamo, fighting for Texas independence.
Walter Martin Baumhofer was an illustrator remembered as “King of the Pulps” — a prolific and influential artist in the adventure, detective and western genres. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, he won a scholarship to Pratt Institute at the age of 18. Baumhofer’s personal records document at least 521 pulp covers and about 750 covers and illustrations for general interest magazines. He also produced cover art for western novels, and painted all 43 covers for the Doc Savage series between 1933 and 1936, as well as illustrating for advertisements. According to Illustration House, “[t]hese pictures represent a consummate professional with limitless energy and a genius for consistently capturing the decisive moment, the moment that illuminated the story, hooked the reader and sold the magazine.” Baumhofer spent his life in New York City, and from 1945, on Long Island.
Condition: Generally very good with only minor wear.
“David Crockett by William Henry Huddle.” Texas Capitol Historial Art Collection. 1996-2000. http://www.tfaoi.com/am/8am/8am230.jpg (23 December 2003).
“Davy Crockett, Frontiersman.” 2002. National Portrait Gallery. http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/brush/davy.htm (23 December 2003).
“Davy Crockett.” AmericanWest.com. 2003. http://www.americanwest.com/pages/davycroc.htm (23 December 2003).
“Walter Baumhofer.” AskArt.com. http://www.askart.com (23 December 2003).
“Walter Baumhofer.” Illustration House. http://www.illustration-house.com/bios/baumhofer_bio.html (23 December 2003).