Remarkable collection of Tibetan Sherpa art collected, and possibly commissioned, by a member of Sir Edward Hillary’s ‘Silver Hut’ expedition to Mount Makulu in the Himalayas, including an image of the mountaineers scaling the peak.
This collection is introduced by its owner, an unidentified member of Hillary’s 1960 expedition (possibly George Lowe), in a two page pencilled text which he has written over the disbound opening pages of a large sketch pad (26x37cm). This seems to have been drafted after the expedition left Kathmandu and before their lengthy acclimatisation at altitude had begun. There are a couple of gaps in the text, possibly left to be filled in later with the relevant information. The mountaineer describes himself as ‘a layman with this largely scientific expedition’ who is admiring of the ‘painstaking research our physiologists are even now preparing to undertake under never-before experienced conditions’ - the expedition yielded now standard research findings into human capacity at altitude. He considers the ambition ‘to put a man on a 27, 770 foot Himalayan peak (in this case Makalu, south east of Everest...’ and Chinese claims ‘to have done much the same’ as well as their own need ‘to throw light on the Abominable Snowman’. There is credit for the team leader: ‘Everest has been climbed, by Sir Edmund Hillary who leads our expedition. Most of the other major Himalayan peaks have been successfully scaled (out of respect for the feelings of the local people, among them our Sherpas... I avoid using the term conquered).’ And the mountaineer writes about the local pride in Sherpa Tenzing. This text is attached (conjugate) to a single soft pencil drawing, presumably depicting one of the young Sherpas, possibly by the mountaineer himself - it is the only image in this ‘western’ style.
The separate images that follow are attributed to the sherpas by the mountaineer in his annotations. Most are on individual sheets of paper, one side only, though a couple more resemble double-sided sheets taken from a sketch-book. They are executed in a mixture of pen and ink with some more decorative coloured images, possibly by the same artist and then a little group of very stylised images in another hand. Particularly interesting is a Tibetan eye-view of the western mountaineers climbing Mount Makulu from the first artist. This depicts 6 roped climbers making their ascent while below two other westerners spy on the Yeti and a Yeti child high above a Himalayan village, pen and ink, 28x32cm.
Profile portrait of young Nepalese or Tibetan boy, signed 27x37cm, signed in Tibetan
Tibetan script, three lines, large calligraphic style, 22x28cm
Tibetan village with stylised mountain backdrop and two figures, pen and watercolour, 18x27cm
Tibetan dancers and musicians at a feast, pen and watercolour, 27x32cm
‘Tibetan dancers by a Sherpa artist’, four pen and ink figures, signed in pencil, 26x37cm
‘Tibetan dancers by a Sherpa artist’, four pen and ink figures, 26x37cm (second image)
Six Tibetan dancers, pen and watercolour, 27x32cm
Six Tibetan dancers, two with black faces and a skull figure. 27x32cm
Six Tibetan dancers watched by two western onlookers wearing backpack and walking boots, 26x37cm
Mountain scene, highly stylised, pen and watercolour, 28x36
Yaks, and a couple outside a house, ink and watercolour, 18x27cm
Meal eaten by two men with a woman to the side and on verso three stylised trees 27x18cm
Yak looking surprised, pen and watercolour, signed to verso, 22x28cm
Four women tilling the land and planting, pen and watercolour, 26x36cm
‘Chumbi enters Lhasa’ and ‘Chumbi & Yak “When I was little higher than a Yak’s head I discovered the truth about mountains”’, pair of watercolours. No line drawing.
This expedition comprised Griffith Pugh, Bishop, Gill, Lahiri, Milledge, Ward and West and Sherpas Siku, Dawa Tensing and Mingma Norbu led by
Edmund Hillary, Griffith Pugh and fellow climbers Norman Hardie, George Lowe, Peter Mulgrew, Michael Ward, John Harrison (NZ), Leigh Ortenberger (US), Wally Romanes (NZ) and American photographer Barry Bishop. Only Lowe seems to fit all the criteria for a non-medic whose collection might have ended up in the UK - a New Zealander, he died in Derbyshire in 2013.