October 26, 2017

 In MOA Artwork of the Week

Mahonri M. Young (1877-1957), Pony Express Rider 3/6 (Posthumous), c. 1973, bronze, 15 1/8 x 22 1/2 x 4 3/4 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art.

On this day in 1861, the Pony Express ceased service, after being rendered obsolete when Western Union completed its transcontinental telegraph lines. Despite only operating for 19 months, the Pony Express set a new standard for high-speed mail delivery, delivering approximately 35,000 pieces of mail and traveling more than half a million miles across the American frontier. Since that time, stories of the Pony Express have continued to inspire and enthrall, repeatedly appearing in Western films, dime novels, and the visual arts.

Here, twentieth-century artist Mahonri Young imagines the impressive speed of a Pony Express rider. Utterly focused on reaching their far-off destination, the horse and rider appear to almost fly through the air. The reach of the horse’s legs evokes the spanning of the continent by these dauntless horsemen. The slim figure of Young’s rider accurately depicts the requirement that they weigh less than 125 pounds. Records indicate that there were more than 80 Pony Express riders, ranging in age from 11 to 45. This work celebrates and romanticizes an earlier century when the West was still new, dangerous, and exciting.

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