Better than any other painter, Eustace Paul Ziegler captured the spirit
of the early twentieth century Alaskan frontier. While he, like his contemporary
Sydney Laurence, loved the Alaska landscape, he was even more enamored
with the life of the people who lived in that challenging environment.
In contrast to the largely symbolic figures that appear in the work of
other Alaskan artists of his day, Ziegler's Native Alaskans, miners,
priests, trappers, and fishermen are individuals, at work and at play
on the frontier.
While attending to the duties of his ministry, Ziegler immediately began to paint religious scenes on the walls of the Red Dragon. He also painted the Native people, miners, railroad workers, and other pioneer inhabitants not only of Cordova, but of the surrounding frontier. Ziegler’s missionary territory included the route north along the Copper River to new mines in Interior Alaska, and he traveled regularly to construction camps and later to the mines in Chitina, Strelna, McCarthy, and Kennicott. Selling his paintings from the window of a Cordova drugstore, he quickly became known for his portraits of the people of the North.
One of his early Cordova sales was to E.T. Stannard, President of the Alaska Steamship Company. In 1924, shortly after completing a series of murals which Stannard commissioned for the Alaska Steamship company offices in Seattle, the artist and his family left Cordova to move to that city. He continued to make annual summer trips to Alaska, however, and for the rest of his long career produced paintings of the North, often working in the vicinity of Mt. McKinley. With his friend and best-known student Theodore Lambert, in 1936 he took an ambitious trip from Fairbanks down the Chena, Tanana, Yukon, and Kuskokwim rivers to Bethel, painting people and places along the way. The two spent the summer of 1939 painting out of Talkeetna.
In Seattle, Ziegler became a well-known, influential figure in the art community. He was a founder and first president of the Puget Sound Group of Northwest Painters, and he won numerous awards in Northwest art exhibitions. He completed important commissions for institutions ranging from the Washington State Press Club, Seattle Post-Intelligencer , and St. James Cathedral in Seattle to the Miami Clinic in Dayton, Ohio and the Baranof Hotel in Juneau.
Eustace Ziegler’s paintings are as lively in their painterly quality as they are in their subject matter. Though highly realistic and faithfully observant of narrative and ethnographic details, his paintings declare the artist’s obvious delight in the character of the paint for its own sake. Whether applied with a palette knife or brush, his paint strokes are confident, energetic, and expressive, reinforcing the bold character of the people and activities they bring to life.
Eustace Ziegler’s powerful, original vision of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest as a place of individual and collective achievement is a compelling one, and his work is widely collected and admired. It is well represented in private, corporate, and museum collections not just in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, but throughout the nation and beyond. A major retrospective exhibition of his work was organized in 1998 by the Anchorage Museum of History and Art and the Morris Museum of Art and was shown in museums in Alaska, Washington, and Georgia.
Sources available on request.