Art of the American West

Les Peters

American/Montana (1917-2010)


Les was born July 18, 1917, in Great Falls. As a child, he loved the time he spent with his family at their cabin in the Little Belt Mountains east of Great Falls. He attended the University of Montana for a year and studied for one year at the University of Oregon before serving in the Army with the 11th Cavalry on the Mexican-California border.

In 1942, the Cavalry was disbanded and Les was transferred to an infantry division, later serving in France and Germany with the 13th Armored Division in World War II. During his time in the Army, he met the love of his life, Barbara Lyons, of New York. Les and Barby were married in August of 1945. They moved to New York where Les studied for a year at the Art Students League and the Central Park School of Art. He and Barby returned to Great Falls, where they raised five daughters. Les immersed himself in the life he loved, seeing and painting wildlife and the Western lifestyle.
Les continued to paint and sculpt throughout his life, giving generously of his time and talents, becoming a mentor and friend to many. On most days, Les could be found painting at his brick studio in Great Falls. Even though he may have been in the process of finishing up a painting to get it sent off to a gallery or art patron, he always pushed back his easel to welcome visits from his friends and those interested in seeing his artwork and extensive collection of Native American artifacts. Les’s beautiful artwork can be found throughout Montana and in private collections throughout the United States. Some of Les’s greater accomplishments were a 90-foot mural for the Florence Hotel in Missoula, which now hangs at the Missoula airport, dioramas in the State Historical Society in Helena and a small painting that was presented to President Eisenhower.