Wilson first sketched Will in 1931


Charles Banks Wilson was just a boy in February 1931 when he first saw Will Rogers. It was in his hometown at the Coleman Theater in Miami (Oklahoma). It was also the first time he sketched Will Rogers.
A new exhibit of Wilson’s works, including a lithograph on stone and several others on loan from Gilcrease Museum of Tulsa, is complete at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum. It is anchored by one of Wilson’s best-loved Will Rogers paintings. The life-size painting, which formerly was in the entry to the Claremore Museum, is the first thing you see when you enter the display area.
A life-size portrait of Will Rogers is one of Wilson’s many works, which hang in the Oklahoma State Capitol. He was also commissioned to do a Will Rogers’ painting for Oklahoma Press Association and later for the 1979 (Centennial Year of Will Rogers birth) for the Oklahoma Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. book.
In the 1930s, he did a series of Will Rogers’ national calenders.
After studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, he began to realize his fascination with Native Americans. He sketched faces of more than 100 persons from 65 tribes as recorded in his1983 book Search for the Native American Purebloods. He donated those originals to Gilcrease, fulfilling a promise to models he would never sell their images.
Wilson, who died in May, would have been 95 on Aug. 6. In February 1931, he sketched Will from backstage at the Coleman. From those sketches, he did Done From Live now on exhibit in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

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