Tribute to Pamela Smith Simpson – Creator of the Rawhide Sculptures

August 6, 1932 – April 6, 2017 ~ Pamela Smith Simpson

 

Thanks to Lana, granddaughter of Pamela Smith Simpson, for solving the mystery about the Rawhide sculptures! I’m thankful she found my 2014 blog and contacted me. Lana sent me wonderful photos and information about her talented maternal grandmother, making this follow-up blog possible!

A Brit and Londoner, Pamela was born August 6, 1932 and passed away April 6, 2017. She graduated from Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts (now called Camberwell College of Arts) in 1952, with a degree in Sculpture and Design. At Camberwell, she won many awards, taught as a student assistant, and attained professorship at age 20! Several of her sculptures were in the art school garden, but were moved after the school transitioned to modernism. The family doesn’t know where these early sculptures currently reside.

Pamela immigrated to the U.S. in 1954 after meeting and falling in love with her first husband, an American GI. She found work in commercial art and design, including at the Knickerbocker Toy Company, where she designed boxes for toys. After the marriage ended, she moved out west, settling in Simi Valley, California, not far from the movie studios. And that’s where she met and married Lana’s grandfather. Pamela had two daughters (one is Lana’s mother) and two grandchildren, one from each daughter. She was divorced from Lana’s grandfather, who is still living and remarried.

The Famous Rawhide Sculptures

Pamela was commissioned by the studio to create the Rawhide sculptures. The commission came about through a talent agency of sorts that helped businesses find artists for jobs, such as set design. The actors modeled for her, which must have been quite an experience for a young sculptor! I wonder how she felt being in such close proximity to Eric Fleming and Clint Eastwood! These sessions are captured in the extraordinary photos Lana shared with me.

 

Pamela sculpting Clint-Eastwood from life – aka Rowdy Yates

Pamela sculpting Eric Fleming from life, aka Gil Favor

Pamela sculpting Paul Brinegar from life, aka Wishbone

 

The purchase order, dated 7/6/64 is from Pacific Title and Art Studio. At the time, they primarily provided title design and optical effects for film and television. This must have been among the most unusual opening title requests they handled! What I found most surprising is that the authorized signature looks like that of Pernell Roberts of Bonanza fame. He never appeared on Rawhide and Bonanza was a rival show! I compared the contract signature with several autographs I found online. While he didn’t appear to sign his name with his middle initial E and there are some differences, this is an intriguing possibility! Unfortunately, the family can’t shed light on this aspect.

 

Sculpture Purchase Order, dated 7/6/64

 

In any case, as you can see from the purchase order, Pamela was paid quite well to create the sculptures, especially when you consider this was 55 years ago and she retained ownership of the sculptures. The studio borrowed the sculptures to film the opening shots, so they were on loan. Pamela was also reimbursed for the foundry fee to cast the clay models in bronze. 

Each of the bronze busts measures about 18 inches from the neck to top of the head. Sadly, the family has no idea what happened to the steer head and covered wagon with team of horses, although they do have the rider from the covered wagon. Pamela moved many times and suffered considerable personal property loss in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, which could explain their disappearance.

After Pamela passed away, the family displayed the three busts of Rowdy, Gil, and Wishbone, but now they’re in a secure storage facility to preserve and protect them. These busts meant a great deal to Pamela and her family loved her so much, they would never consider selling them. While the family hopes to eventually place them in a worthy museum, they aren’t quite ready to let them go!

Additional Artwork and Creative Pursuits

Pamela exhibited in many galleries and museums, although Lana couldn’t remember the names off the top of her head. She competed in the Madonna Festival in Westwood for a few years. When she grew older she developed arthritis. Unable to sculpt, she turned to china painting, which provided a lot of enjoyment. She was always creative and kept busy! Here is a beautiful assortment of additional works created by Pamela. The first one is a sweet bust of Lana when she was a little girl.

 

Bronze bust of Lana when she was a little girl

Reclining female bronze figurine

Standing female bronze figurine

China painting on vase

Cowboy painting, 2013

 

In addition to her artistic talents, Pamela was an excellent musician. Both of her parents were professional musicians; her mother played the piano and her father sang and played many instruments. Pamela primarily played the guitar and piano. She also had a beautiful, deep, and strong singing voice, which Lana said was surprising, coming from such a petite woman! When the piano became too hard to play due to severe arthritis, Pamela decided to take on the harp!

Lana mentioned that when she was a child, they spent many hours together doing arts and crafts. How wonderful it must have been growing up with such a cool grandmother! Today, Lana is a graphic designer and continuing her art education, so it’s clear she inherited her grandmother’s artistic abilities.

Photos and story published with permission of the granddaughter and family of Pamela Smith Simpson

2 Comments:

  1. I can only say one word: AMAZING! All these years we were wondering who and how the statues were made. Were pictures taken or drawings made from our heroes, and then made into statues ? I never guessed they actually posed for Pamela, and if so, I never guessed there were pictures made of them posing for her while making the statues. Having the actual contract is a great addition to the whole story – thank you so much!

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