Wells Fargo Stagecoach Mural by John Farnsworth

During the year it took to research and paint STAGE, artist John Farnsworth studied, photographed and sketched Wells Fargo's original Concord stagecoach housed in its San Francisco History Museum. Using 30 panels, each approximately 51 by 53 inches, he projected his final drawing onto the assembled panels and, working from a hydraulic lift, traced and revised his design.

Farnsworth's STAGE is created solely from the three primary colors, mixed by the artist to create the subtle variations which bring the scene to life.

Many of his "models" -- boots, clothing, even certain angles -- are the result of his meticulous study of a collection of Western movies as well as extensive research in the Wells Fargo Archives.

(Wells Fargo Stagecoach Mural Sketch by John Farnsworth)


The bearded shotgun rider is Farnsworth himself, dressed in a shirt his grandfather might have worn and a buckskin jacket with furred collar and cuffs, influenced by one worn by Donald Sutherland in a Canadian movie. Farnsworth carries an authentic Wells Fargo & Company shotgun, dating from the 1860's. The artist posed using a video camera and monitor.

The door design is based on a New Hampshire coach painter's interpretation of Albert Bierstadt's YOSEMITE FALLS. Farnsworth's loose translation had to be foreshortened due to the angle of the coach. Nevertheless, the detail is flawless.

The Indian standing on the river bank is approximately one quarter inch tall, yet the feather in his headband is clearly detailed.

The tiny figure of the Indian is in sharp contrast with the head of the horse, whose thrusting tongue is highlighted by a single glistening 12-inch brush stroke. The flaring nostril and glaring eye fairly leap from the painting as the horse leans into a bend in the road.

The driver's plain, scuffed and dusty work boots again reflect the Western movie influence, as well as studies of photographs in the Wells Fargo History Museum.

In all of his costuming, Farnsworth seeks the right flavor of the period rather than the actual fact.

Others depicted in the painting include Wayne Andersen, the Art Consultant on the project, as driver of the coach, and the artist's daughter, Rosa Farnsworth peering out of the back window.

John Farnsworth, a native of Arizona, has been developing his larger-than-life depictions of horses and cattle since 1977. He excludes extraneous landscape backgrounds from his work, drawing the viewer into direct involvement with his subjects.

STAGE, Farnsworth's 22 by 27 foot oil on linen mural which is now a part of the Sky Harbor Airport art collection, exemplifies this style. commissioned by Wells Fargo & Company in 1981, STAGE is a careening stagecoach seemingly drawn by a single horse whose powerful head dominates the right foreground of the mural.

Farnsworth has been a professional artist since 1968. His emphasis on large-scale, site-specific corporate, private and public commissions led to his selection by Wells Fargo & Company to create a mural for its Southern California banking headquarters. The mural, which took a year to complete, became the focal point of the building. When the office was later moved to new quarters, the mural no longer could be displayed to its best advantage.

In 1987, working with Edward Jacobson, a founding member of the Phoenix Arts Commission and a member of the board of the Phoenix Arts Museum, Wells Fargo donated the mural to the Arts Commission through Wells Fargo's Arizona-headquartered subsidiary, Wells Fargo Credit Corporation.

Wells Fargo's historic ties with Arizona date back to 1859, when stagecoaches carried mail and passengers on the southern route of the Overland Trail. Farnsworth's Stage, depicting one of the first modes of mass transit, has come home to Arizona, where it is located close to today's most modern and efficient means of transportation.


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