Wild West is super-sized at Edwards gallery | VailDaily.com

Wild West is super-sized at Edwards gallery

Christopher and Co./Special to the Daily

EDWARDS, Colorado – Steve Woodruff has never had anything so big in his gallery in Edwards, Colorado.

It’s a 28-foot-by-9-foot poster that depicts Buffalo Bill Cody’s 1887 exhibition in London.

And it’s not just the physical size that makes it so big. It’s a historical artifact that documents a key moment in Anglo-American relations, said Woodruff, owner of Christopher and Co. gallery. The poster is now on display at the gallery in Edwards.

“It’s just such an incredible piece of American history,” Woodruff said.

The billboard promoted the 1887 Wild West Show, which brought William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Chief Sitting Bull, Geronimo and Annie Oakley, along with 180 horses, 18 buffalo, 10 elk, five Texan steers, four donkeys and two deer, to Europe.

The tour aimed to expose Britain to the American West. The poster demonstrates the warming of relations between America and England, just 70 years after the War of 1812, Woodruff said.

The London show also marked the first time in 25 years that Queen Victoria had appeared at a public performance. She had spent that time in mourning for her husband, Prince Albert. The billboard depicts her sitting in black in the front row, watching the exhibition.

Woodruff acquired the poster from a collector friend in France. It may well be the only copy of the billboard that survives, he said. He had to think about it for a few months, but he finally pulled the trigger and bought the piece.

“I actually started having dreams and nightmares that I let it pass through my hands,” he said.

The colors from the woodblock prints remain vivid on the century-plus-old poster, said Woodruff, adding that 128 woodblocks were carved to create the design.

“An incredible amount of human labor went into this,” he said.

He recently had the giant poster scanned so the Edwards gallery can sell smaller prints, which will probably start around $400.

Woodruff hopes the billboard, which he said is worth over $100,000, will end up in a museum such the Denver Art Museum or the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyo. That would likely mean a philanthropist would have to buy it and donate it to a museum, he said.

The billboard has been drawing plenty of attention since in arrived in Colorado. The Denver Business Journal and 9News have already done stories on it.

The billboard will be on display at Christopher and Co. through late July.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 970-748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.

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