About the artist:
Theodore Waddell's sophisticated modernist paintings have attracted widespread recognition. A cattle rancher who lives on the Musselshell River northwest of Billings, Waddell most often paints freely-rendered range animals roaming the vast plains of Eastern Montana. In his work he draws a deliberate parallel between his subject and the elements of abstract art: cattle and horses are motifs formally arranged on the flattened and enveloping painted "ground" characteristic of modernism. Noted earlier for heavily textured surfaces, Waddell's recent paintings are more atmospheric, with translucent wax medium layers suggesting the drift of grazing animals, transitions of days, and the procession of the seasons. Theodore Waddell, a Montana native raised in Laurel, studied at the Brooklyn Museum Art School, Eastern Montana College, and Wayne State University, Detroit (MFA, 1968). He taught at the University of Montana from 1968 to 1976 and has since been a full time artist and rancher. He has had over ninety one man exhibitions, including a major survey at the Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis. Ted Waddell was born in Billings in 1941 and grew up in Laurel. His father, Teddy, painted boxcars for the Northern Pacific railroad; at home at night, he would relax with a paint-by-numbers art piece while his son watched in fascination. Young Waddell’s interest in paint paralleled a growing interest of music. He played coronet in a high school dance band, traveling on weekends to play for dances in nearby Montana towns. His interest in music would later turn to jazz, which in turn would influence his art. An early interest in architecture was squelched when he flunked a math test at Eastern Montana College in Billings. Instead, Waddell enrolled in Isabelle Johnson’s painting class. After a few days with her, he decided painting was what he wanted to do the rest of his life. Montana’s first modernist painter, Johnson was steeped in the nineteenth-century European traditions of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Johnson lived and painted from her family’s Stillwater Ranch outside Absarokee for most of her long life. She held a bachelor’s degree in history from UM and a master’s in history from Columbia University in New York. It is as easy to see the influence of Cezanne in her paintings of Montana landscapes, cattle, and the ranching life as it is to see the influence she had on Ted Waddell. Like another Montana rancher and painter, Bill Stockton, Johnson painted what was close to her, eschewing the traditional Western realism that had long dominated art in the region. Waddell studied with Johnson for two years, his first big break coming with a scholarship to study at the Brooklyn Museum Art School. Homesick after a little more than a year of study, he jumped on a plane one day and, arriving in Laurel, found his draft papers. He spent two years in the U.S. Army, playing trumpet and touring with a big band. Returning to Billings, he finished his degree at Eastern and then his master’s of fine arts at Wayne State University in Detroit. In 1968 he joined the UM art faculty, teaching sculpture and design. During the eight years spent living in Arlee and teaching at the University, Waddell created many minimalist-influenced, polished steel sculptures that can still be viewed in many towns and cities across the state. “When we were living in the mountains, making sculpture made sense, and it fit within the context of the narrow mountain valleys,” he says. Waddell left the University in 1976, the same year he was granted tenure and associate professor rank, simply saying he was not doing his job. Waddell took a job as a manager for a large ranch north of Laurel owned by relatives of his wife, Betty. “On the prairie where you can see for 150 miles in any direction, sculpture made no sense to me,” he said. “I couldn’t afford to make sculpture on the scale necessary [for it] to make sense, so I went back to drawing and painting—drawing first—and then, after feeling the need for a scale change, painting our black cows.” For years, Waddell ranched and painted, rarely showing any of his work. In 1987 the Waddell’s bought a small ranch near Ryegate and began to build their own herd. In 1982 Waddell did exhibit a group of his paintings of cattle and landscapes in the sales arena at the Billings livestock auction yard. Soon after, a curator from the Corcoran Gallery of Art came to town, looking for artists to include in a painting biennial, the Second Western State Exhibition; Waddell’s paintings were among those chosen. His work was singled out in reviews by the Washington Post and The New York Times and was the subject of a Newsweek article. His career was launched. The exhibit traveled to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among other venues, and Waddell signed on with noted galleries in San Francisco and Reno, Nevada. Contracts soon followed with galleries in Chicago, Santa Fe, Seattle, and Scottsdale, Arizona. Waddell left the ranching life in 1995, moving to the Gallatin Valley east of Bozeman. He now divides his time between homes in Manhattan, Montana, and Hailey, Idaho, where his second wife, Lynn Campion, a writer and photographer, teaches at the Sun Valley Art Center.
Theodore Waddell's sophisticated modernist paintings have attracted widespread recognition. A cattle rancher who lives on the Musselshell River northwest of Billings, Waddell most often paints freely-rendered range animals roaming the vast plains of