C.A. Seward

1884 - 1939

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Leo Courtney began his career as an artist in his hometown of Hutchinson, Kansas. Early records show that he first worked as a cartoonist and then later as a photo engraver for The Old Trail and Engraving Company.  By 1918 he had moved with his wife, Pearl Bratton to Wichita where he joined C.A. Seward as one of the city’s first commercial artists.  This common bond plus their mutual interest in early history and Native American cultures created the basis for the lifelong friendship and collaboration of these two artists.

Seward had established his first free lance design studio in 1909 and by 1910 had become manager of Capper Engraving.  It is most likely that Seward hired Courtney as one of his staff artists  and that when Seward left the company in 1919, Courtney then became the manager of the art department.  Later Courtney also worked briefly with Seward at Western Lithograph before he left to work with the art department of the Cardwell All Steel Manufacturing Company.  In the last two years of his life Courtney also managed his own art shop.  In his shop, which was located in the building of the Whitney Jewelry Store at 222 East Douglas, Courtney specialized in custom picture framing, books by Kansas authors, children’s books, a rental library, greeting cards, Kansas pottery, prints and paintings. 

The grand opening of the shop in November of 1938 featured an exhibition of prints by Kansas artists and fellow members of the Prairie Print Makers and also the work of prominent artists outside the state.  The work of William Rice, J.J. Lankes, Kenneth Adams, John Taylor Arms was show alongside the prints of C.A. Seward, William Dickerson, Charles Capps and Birger Sandzen.  Shortly after this exhibition Courtney displayed and sold was the collection of his closest friend, C.A. Seward. The sale was held in order to insure the financial position of Seward’s wife for by the fall of 1938 Seward’s doctors had determined that his health was steadily declining.  After the opening of this sale Courtney sent a note to the Seward family thanjing them for the flowers with the comment “Had a nice crowd, about 125 signed my register and of course many got out without.  Sure wish C.A. could have been here with me.”

The close relationship between these two artists resulted in not just their shared pleasure of making trips to view Indian ceremonies in western Kansas and the reservations in Oklahoma and then a family sketching trip to New Mexico but also the majority of the subjects of Courtney’s prints.  Block prints were most often Courtney’s choice most likely because this medium was a perfect match for his interest in naturally created patterns of light and shadow.  Although no complete catalog exists for his work a preliminary list developed in the early 1980’s documents a least 30 images, mostly block prints, of which a limited number were executed in color.  On this list are also a few etchings.  In addition to his activity as a printmaker, Courtney also was an accomplished wood carver and metalworker.  All of his creations, both prints and craft items maybe identified by his distinctive mark an “X” shape combined with four dots.  In addition, Courtney signed and titled his prints beneath the image but rarely dated or numbered them.

Leo Courtney was elected the first President of the Prairie Print Makers.  Lloyd Foltz in a later interview described the founding of the organization, “I am certain Courtney and Seward got the idea and put it together and arranged with Sandzen first meeting at his studio in Lindsborg.”  This collusion of these two friends, Courtney and Seward, expanding the art community lasted for a lifetime for after establishing the Prairie Print Makers they went on to re-invigorate the Kansas Federation of the Arts.  Courtney serving as the first Secretary-Treasurer and later the Director and Seward as the first Director and later the President.

Courtney throughout his life was not just involved in the arts but many other community organizations.  He took an active leadership role in the Boy Scouts and was for many years the scout Master of Troop number 55 in Wichita.  Courtney also was an active member of the Masonic Lodge and traveled throughout Kansas lecturing and teaching the masonic philosophy.

In 1940, after a period of failing health, Courtney succumbed to a heart attack on his 50th birthday. He had remained active in his work as an artist until his health began to decline.  His work was included in exhibitions in Wichita as well as the Prairie Print Makers.  In 1928 he was awarded a bronze medal at the Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition at the Kansas City Art Institute.


The 26 known prints by Leo Courtney are:

Alone (woodcut)                                  After-Glow (woodcut)        The River (blockprint)

Snow Bound (etching)                        The Kiva (woodcut)              La Avenida (woodcut)

*The Tree at Taos (woodcut)              *Santa Barbara (wood cut)    The Homestead (woodcut)

The Old Tree (woodcut)                      Dusk (woodcut)                    In the Shadows (linocut)

*Shadows (block print)                        Two Pines (block print)         Twin Peaks (block print)

A.M Hall (block print)                        Mountains (block print)        At Sundown (block print)

The White Blanket People                    Spooks                                Ranchos

The Little Church                                Flint Hill Farm                     *Poplars

*The Red Barn                                    *untitled etching

*Theodore Roosevelt (commercially printed block print, known to be part of a series)


11 August 1890, Hutchinson, Kansas

11 August 1940, Wichita, Kansas

Professional Positions & Honors:

1910 cartoonist

1917 photo engraver, The Old Trail & Engraving Co., Hutchinson, KS

1920 artist, Capper Engraving

1930 artist,Western Lithograph  1931-33

owner gift shop & gallery

Charter Member & 1st President, The Prairie Print Makers

Founding Member - Wichita Artists Guild

Secretary- Treasurer - Kansas Federation of the Arts

Exhibitions include:

Midwest Artists’ Exhibitions, Kansas City Art Institute

1926 - The Old Tree - Taos

1928 - Shadows, AfterGlow, Winter, & Bronze Medal for The Homestead

1929 - City Hall

1931- The White Blanket People

Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE

Philbrook Art Center, Tulsa, OK


Leo Courtney,  1890 - 1940

Images (left to right, top to bottom): untitled etching, block prints titled “Shadows, Poplars, The Hilltop, Santa Barbara, and The Red Barn” and photograph of Courtney (left) with members of the Seward family at the sand dunes in western Kansas, Courtney (middle) with Seward (left) and author Stanley Vestal (aka - Walter Stanley Campbell), note card print of Courtney’s color block print “Winter” and block print “The Old Tree - Taos”

Sources: “The Prairie Print Makers”, Barbara Thompson-O’Neill, George Foreman & Howard Ellington, 1981, obituary for Leo Leander Courtney, interviews with Courtney family members  and Prairie Print Maker Charter Member, Lloyd Foltz.

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