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Basque drawings

 Collection
Identifier: NC900
Drawings by Wallace and Hans Reiss of Basque carvings worked on aspen trees in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and Nevada by Basque sheep herders, 1895-1935. Includes a map locating sites of carvings.

Dates

  • 1895-1935

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Extent

0.1 Cubic Feet (27 drawings + 1 map)

Overview

Drawings by Wallace and Hans Reiss of Basque carvings worked on aspen trees in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and Nevada by Basque sheep herders, 1895-1935. Includes a map locating sites of carvings.

Historical Note

The sheep owners in the Carson and Washoe valleys of Nevada sent their flocks and herders up into the Sierra mountain meadows every spring. The herders were Basques, and they took readily to the mountain terrain that was like their own Pyrenees, where, for untold ages, their ancestors had guarded sheep.

Frances R. Wallace and Hans Reiss, the artists behind the drawings, called the collection "Basquos," though also believed that the collection should have been subtitled "Aspen Art." The art is of the tree carvings on the aspen trees, created by the Basque sheepherders in the early 20th century who summered their flocks in the meadows above the north and east shores of Lake Tahoe in the high Sierra.

Wallace and Reiss discovered the carvings on a hike one summer. They came upon a grove of very large aspen trees, some at least eighteen inches in diameter, and, on tree after tree, found intricate and grotesque carvings. They were thrilled to "discover" the carvings in the solitude of the high Sierra, where the only sounds were the faint rustle of the quaking aspen leaves and the gurgle of a little stream that ran through the meadow. Wallace and Reiss attempted to sketch them, but the "naive quality and queer, sometimes distorted drawings" designs were simply lost when copied. The artists then attempted to trace them by tacking paper carefully to the trees.

Over the course of three summers, Wallace and Reiss searched out and traced 78 carvings, from which they selected 27 of the most interesting and characteristic carvings to create this collection.

Arrangement

Unarranged.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased through an anonymous donation by Robert Laxalt in 1965.
Title
A Guide to the Basque drawings
Status
completed
Description rules
dacs

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Contact:
Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5665
775-682-5724 (Fax)