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Robert Farrington Elwell (American, 1874-1962)


Also known as:  R. Farrington Elwell

Birth Place: Boston, MA, USA


Who was painter Robert Elwell?

Robert Elwell was a painter of the American West whose illustrations were extremely popular at the beginning of the 20th century. He worked for famed institutional magazines like Harper’s, American Magazine, and The Outing. Later, he would draw covers for the pulp magazines like Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly, Adventure West, and Frontier Stories. By the 1950s his popularity allowed him to pick his projects more carefully, focusing mainly on creating interior illustrations for the regional magazine, Arizona Highways.

Elwell was able to convey the beauty and mystery of the American southwest like no other commercial artist of his generation. His authenticity and powerful color choices charged the imaginations of a generation of readers. His paintings told stories, recreating the lost world of the American west through an expert eye for aesthetics and a seemingly limitless imagination. He died in 1962, 88 years old and still at the peak of his powers. 

What kind of art does Robert Elwell make?

Robert Elwell created narrative illustrations, scenic landscapes, and other art associated with the American West. His vivid color schemes and sense of movement created art that feels as vital and alive today as it did when he created it. While many of his paintings were magazine covers, he gave just as much attention to detail to his interior illustrations, meaning that when Elwell died he had a huge body of work that has impressed collectors for generations. Having an Elwell in your house is a statement piece, both vulnerable and masculine, sophisticated and savage, a balance in contrasts. 

How did painter Robert Elwell get started?

Born in Massachusetts, painting called to Elwell at an early age. While he studied at a local technical school for a career in civil engineering, the skills that he learned in drafting and lettering led him instead to a job at The Boston Globe. While there, he met Buffalo Bill Cody in 1892, when Cody’s famous Wild West Show toured to Boston. The young Elwell and the elder Cody soon became fast friends, and Cody invited Elwell to his Montana ranch in 1896. Through Buffalo Bill, Elwell soon became friends with many western celebrities, including Frederick Remington, Diamond Jim Brady, and even Annie Oakley. He parlayed this rich experience, as well as a great aesthetic eye into a second career as one of the great illustrators of the American West. 

How much are Robert Elwell paintings worth?

A Robert Elwell painting can be worth anywhere from a few thousand dollars for an illustration up to nearly $50,000 for one of his bronze sculptures. The most ever paid for a Robert Elwell piece is $43,880 for Indian in a Canoe a bronze sculpture that was sold on September 16th, 2016. As far as Elwell’s paintings go, the most ever paid for one of his works was $19,550 for the painting Big Trouble on January 26th, 2008. It outperformed even its high estimate by close to $5,000. 

Where to buy Robert Elwell paintings for sale?

See works for sale below. Why buy from Heritage? Art buyers feel confident because our experts know the market and put careful valuations on artwork for sale. We make the bidding process easier to help you expand your art collection.

How to value Robert Elwell paintings?

The best way to value art is to compare past auction prices for similar works. View past sale prices below. When you’re ready to sell, contact Heritage Auctions to request an auction estimate of the likely selling price at auction. If you need a formal written appraisal for estate planning or insurance, please contact our Appraisal Services department.

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