Olaf Carl Seltzer


Olaf Carl Seltzer


Copenhagen, Denmark


Frontier and Indian genre paitning, illustration

Born on August 25, 1877 in Copenhagen, Denmark to German immigrant parents, Olaf was abandoned in infancy by his father. He found solace in drawing, which led to acceptance at the Tekniske Selskabe Institute, known to develop artisans. Yet the young artist dreamed of the American West of Buffalo Bill Cody. He and his mother Julie sailed to America on June 21, 1892 to join his sister Laura and her husband in Giant Springs, a short jaunt from Great Falls, Montana. His first job was a ranch hand for a local outfit, but soon he realized the wages were better working for the Great Northern Railway. In October 1893 he was employed as an apprentice machinist for the railway in Great Falls. Other jobs such as locomotive repairman found him riding trains throughout the northern Great Plains, sketching in his spare time.

His big break came from Russell patron Dr. Phillip Cole who by 1925 was one of the most important collectors of Western American art in the country. Cole had met Seltzer on one of his trips to Montana, and for a year starting in 1926 Seltzer moved to New York to work on art commissions for him. Many more would follow. In 1928 he purchased a home on East Central Avenue and completed for Cole a series of watercolors that would be called the “Western Characters.”