Historical Art Treasure Depicting Custer’s Last Stand to be Auctioned

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Randall Hill Auctions is showcasing the monumental oil painting “Custer’s Last Rally” by John Mulvany completed in 1881 in their upcoming auction. It is the first major work of art, and the oldest surviving, to depict the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.

Custers Last Rally oil painting of the Battle of the Little Bighorn

Historic Art Treasure "Custer's Last Rally"

This painting has been famous from the date of its inception to the present. It has been exhibited in some of the most famous galleries and museums, including Fort Worth's Amon Carter Museum.

Custer's Last Rally, artist John Mulvany‘s majestic 11 x 20 foot oil painting of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, will sell at auction on August 11th in Dallas at the World Trade Center with bidding also offered online. This mural-style work, appraised as high as $23 million, is the first major work of art, and the oldest surviving, depicting the tragic, historic event in 1876 when Custer and his men were totally overwhelmed by the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians.

In his 2009 appraisal, Paul Rossi, western art expert, historian and former director of the Gilcrease Museum, declared the work to be “an invaluable collector's piece in American Western art and a true national treasure.” He added, “No other event in American history has captured the imagination of people so entirely than Custer’s last fight.”

The work took two years to complete. Mulvany began painting in 1879 after conducting extensive research, visiting the scene of the massacre and acquainting himself with the habits of the Sioux Indians by visiting their lodges and speaking with captive braves. He also studied the dress and equipment of the U.S. Cavalry and obtained portraits and descriptions of General Custer and his officers.

“The painting illustrates well the valor in the face of doom shown by the troopers of the 7th,” said Tom Burks, former curator of the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco, TX. “This painting has been famous from the date of its inception to the present. It has been exhibited in some of the most famous galleries and museums, including Fort Worth's Amon Carter Museum.” After its completion, the painting was exhibited throughout the United States, including the World’s Fair, creating a sensation everywhere it appeared. When food mogul, H. J. Heinz, purchased it in 1898, he extended the tour to include Europe. It toured for a total of 17 years from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s.

Published accounts were laudatory. Even Walt Whitman was enamored with the work. “The many soldiers, their faces and attitudes, the carbines, the broad-brimmed Western hats, the powder-smoke in puffs, the dying horses with their rolling eyes almost human in their agony, the clouds of war-bonneted Sioux in the background, the figures of Custer and Cook, with indeed, the whole scene, inexpressible, dreadful, yet with an attraction and beauty that will remain forever in my memory,” said Whitman, quoted in the Kansas Historical Quarterly in 1946 from an earlier work.

At one point in its history, it was housed in a museum built to showcase it after being purchased by Francis Hickman, publisher of the Cotton Trade Journal. The Memphis Pink Palace Museum acquired it in 1967, commissioned to find a larger museum to provide more public access, and subsequently loaned it to the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas for a special exhibit.

The auction of the Mulvany painting will be conducted by Randall Hill, Michael Franklin, or any other designee of RevCap, LLC. as an absolute auction, being sold to the highest bidder. Additional significant works of art will also be for sale by Randall Hill Auctions #TX7455, including an etching by Pablo Picasso, bronze sculptures by Tuan Nguyen, paintings by George Jones and a lithograph by Joan Miro. Visit https://1bid2.com for photos and a full catalog. Auction time is 10am CST on Tuesday, August 11, 2020 at 2050 Stemmons Fwy., Suite 555, Dallas, Texas 75207, or online bidding is available. For more information call 210-663-7707. Pre-registration is required.

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