Olaf Wieghorst

April 30 (1899) is the birthday of Olaf Wieghorst, an artist famous for his outstanding work on the American West. He was born in Denmark but immigrated to the United States in 1918 and lived in the U.S. the rest of his life. 

He focused on horses, cowboys, Native Americans, and early western settlers. But especially horses. He was a stunt rider in a Danish circus before leaving for the U.S. He served in the U.S Cavalry on the New Mexican border during the days of the Mexican Revolution. He worked on ranches throughout the West, always with horses. He served as a mounted policeman in New York City, often on the Central Park bridle path. He finally settled in California in 1944. 

He was self-taught in painting. He said he learned to paint horses from having ridden and studied them all his life. He liked to paint his skies with dark colors. Note the skies in this painting of his. 

The opening credits of the 1966 John Wayne movie “El Dorado” features a montage of Wieghorst’s paintings. The theme song is a haunting rendition of a poem by Edgar Allan Poe called “Eldorado”, sung by George Alexander. Those opening credits are a favorite of mine. You can watch it on You Tube:


Wieghorst plays the gunsmith Swede Larsen in the movie. 

He died on April 27, 1988, just a few days shy of his 89th birthday.