The Tale of Teton Teater
Prolific painter created a canvas per day during decades spent at the easel.
Archie Teater, seen here in his studio in the early 1970s, was the first artist to open a gallery in Jackson Hole.
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During the mid-1950s, Bev and Monte Later drove from their home in Idaho to Jackson Hole, searching for a painting of the Tetons.
Before the Laters’ search began, they stopped for lunch at Moore’s Open Range Restaurant – now Legacy Gallery. On the wall above their table were still-life paintings of oranges, potatoes and strawberries.
The 20-something couple, just starting to collect art, inquired about the paintings. The artwork, they were told, was done by a local guy with a studio a few buildings away.
The Laters went in search of their Tetons in Archie Teater’s log studio. Right away, they found them. But they also came across a painting of the New York skyline. He wanted the mountains. She wanted the city.
“We were deadlocked,” Monte says.
So the couple checked into a motel for the night. They’d sleep on it and decide whose $150 painting to buy the next day. Come morning, the Laters still had not resolved their spat.
They caved and bought both, starting their 50-year history of collecting paintings by the artist who’s locally known as “Teton Teater.”
Archie Teater is said to be one of the first artists to paint Jackson Hole and the surrounding landscape. Indeed, Teater was even the first artist to open a gallery in Jackson Hole.
It’s estimated that Teater created about 4,000 paintings in his lifetime, making him, some say, one of the most prolific painters in the U.S. It was typical for Teater to paint a canvas per day.
His pieces featured Western logging and mining camps, the Tetons, Jackson Hole street scenes, New York City and the San Francisco skyline.
“He must have had 10 paintings in his head for every one that ever hit the canvas,” Later recalls. “But you’d ask him what was his favorite, and he’d say the one he just finished.”
Teater’s impressionistic works were done almost exclusively in oil on canvas. For the most part, he worked en plein air, and the bulk of his painting was done on the scene despite rain, snow, sleet and sub-zero temperatures.
At the height of his success, he enjoyed a national and international following, with gallery representation in New York City. His paintings hung in shows at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and in exhibits next to work by artists such as Charles Russell and Thomas Moran. U.S. Embassies showed his works, while collectors including Averill Harriman, Laurance Rockefeller, Godfrey Rockefeller, George S. Amory, Henry P. Cole and Mrs. Charles de Rham bought Teater paintings.
According to some, Bennett Cerf, the founder of Random House, bought a piece when it was still wet.
“Of the local famous artists, Archie was the first,” says Lester Taylor, a part-time valley resident who penned a book about Teater. “Of the subsequent Jackson Hole artists, he is probably the best known. In terms of painting the Tetons and Jackson Hole, Archie is totally without peer.”