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During an interview with a Los Angeles radio station Johnson said, “Frank Ellis was riding for the SMS outfit at the time I was there. Just an old-time broken down cowpuncher, he called himself. One eye missing and some tell-tale scars on his leathery hide. Perhaps you know about the notorious Billy the Kid, who is claimed to have killed at least 21 men…. But far be it from me to have accused Frank Ellis of having been one of the outlaws that figured in the famous Lincoln County War—because he and I were good friends. I used him in several of my best paintings…”

According to Harold McCracken in The Frank Tenney Johnson Book, “The sprawling SMS Ranch was named after Svante Magnus Swenson, who came to Texas from Sweden in 1838, and became a prosperous merchant in Richmond and Austin. He bought land grants on the West Texas frontier; and following the Civil War he opened a banking house in New York, engaging in international enterprises. In the late 1870s, his two sons began developing the family Texas land, becoming among the first to change from the old ways of longhorns to better stock. … At the time of Frank’s visit the SMS consisted of 280,000 acres covering parts of nine counties. “Frank Tenney Johnson’s stay at this big ranch was one of the most rewarding of his experiences. He had a great abundance of colorful material to sketch and photograph; and a good many of the SMS cowboys and horses appear in his later paintings.”

PROVENANCE:
Biltmore Salon, Los Angeles, California, 1929
R. L. Scofield, Santa Barbara, California, October 1929
Roy Barton White, New York, New York, 1939
Roy White heirs, by descent, 1961
Private Collection, California, 2006

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