Earle E. Heikka

1910-1941, Montana

"Escape," 1932

Cold painted bronze on wood base
Edition: 18/36; signed: E.E. Heika [sic]; further marked: JHM Classic Bronze / Tom Bird [copyright symbol] / 1975; titled to plaque
13.5" H x 15" W x 5.25" D

  • Notes: Earl E. Heikka was born in Belt, Montana in 1910 to Finnish parents and subsequently lived and worked in Great Falls, Montana. Heikka is best known for his sculptures depicting Western themes, including animals, miners, Native Americans, and cowboys, that accurately and acutely capture the realism and emotion observed in nature. It was noted that, even as a small child, he had always demonstrated a skill and interest in illustrating wildlife. However, Heikka never received formal training in the fine arts nor attended art school. Nevertheless, Heikka's various occupational experiences afforded him not only the opportunity to study nature, but also to replicate it. He worked as a taxidermist at the Great Falls Sporting Goods Company, was a ranch hand at the Skelton Brothers Ranch near the Highwood Mountains, was a park guide at Glacier National Park, and worked at actor Gary Cooper's family ranch. His background in taxidermy allowed him to further develop his study of animals, which he utilized in his sculptures. Furthermore, Heikka shared Great Falls with prominent Western artist Charles M. Russell, whom he was greatly inspired by, and a number of Heikka's sculptures currently remain in the permanent collection of the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls.

    During his tenure at the Cooper family ranch, Heikka was invited by Gary Cooper to set up a private studio on the property in 1929. The Hollywood actor would serve as a model for Heikka's 1937 sculpture, "Gambler's Luck." It was through Cooper that Heikka was introduced to numerous future patrons of his art, including William Andrews Clark, III, the grandson of mining mogul William A. Clark as well as John D. Ryan, the organizer of the Montana Power Company. Heikka would go on to exhibit works at the Stendahl Galleries in Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel in 1931, at Chicago's 1933 Century of Progress Exposition, and at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco.

    Heikka's original sculptures were hand-painted clay executed in Marblex, a water-based air-drying clay, modeled over a wire armature that would have been further wrapped with fine wire around the exterior in order to lend the pieces better adhesion for the clay. Following a period of grief over the death of his brother and later estrangement from his wife, Heikka committed suicide in 1941 at the age of thirty-one. It was not until the 1960s, however, that collectors began producing editioned bronze casts of his clay sculptures, which became highly sought after and posthumously earned Heikka his reputation as a notable Western artist.
  • Condition: Overall good condition with minor scuffs and oxidation to bronze commensurate with age. Adhesive felt pads to underside.

    With base: 15.5" H x 15" W x 5.25" D

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August 31, 2021 10:00 AM PDT
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