Olaf Wieghorst 1899-1988
Important traditional Western painter specializing in horses, painter of horse portraits, illustrator, sculptor.
Wieghorst is the son of a display artist and photo retoucher who became an engraver. Educated in Copenhagen public schools, Wieghorst was “Little Olaf—the Miniature Acrobat” from age nine until 14. Interested in horses, the American “Wild West,” and painting while apprenticed in a store an on a farm, he began painting in 1916. Working as a sailor in 1918, he jumped ship in New York City where he enlisted in the United States Cavalry for duty on the Mexican border. During his last three years of military service as a horseshoer, he learned rodeoing and trick riding.
He was mustered out in Arizona, finding work as a ranch hand on the Quarter Circle 2C Ranch who brand is now Wieghorst’s insignia. In 1923 he returned to New York City, graduation from the Police Academy in 1925. Assigned to the Police Show Team of the Mounted Division, Wieghorst began to paint in his spare time. In 1940, he found an agent for his paintings, which immediately sold as calendar art and as Western illustrations. By 1942 he was receiving commission for horse portraits and bronzes, with fees up to $500.
In 1944, Wieghorst retired from the Police Department, settling in El Cajon, California in 1945. By 1955 he had a waiting list of buyers. “I try to paint the little natural things, the way a horse turns his tail to the wind on cold nights, the way he flattens his ears in the rain, seasonal changes in the coat of a horse, and the psychology of his behavior. Horses have been my life.” Weighorst’s biography was published in 1969.