Harry Jackson
Artist Harry Jackson looks through some sketches from his Marine Corp. combat artist years in his studio in Cody, Wyo., on Oct. 15. Jackson died recently at age 87. TIM KUPSICK/Casper Star-Tribune

CODY, Wyo. -- Famed artist Harry Jackson died in Sheridan on Monday, family members said.

Jackson's son, Matthew Jackson, told The Gazette on Tuesday that his father had recently celebrated in his 87th birthday before his death at the VA Medical Center in Sheridan.

Jackson leaves five children and four grandchildren.

"We're going to be doing a family service -- a small service," Matthew Jackson said. "We'll be doing a larger memorial service later on."

Jackson rose to fame as a combat artist with the Marine Corps during World War II. His work evolved over time and now hangs in New York's Metropolitan Museum and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

The Vatican and Queen Elizabeth II are also said to hold his work in their private collections.

Jackson's friends have included artist Jackson Pollock, cowboy Cal Todd, actor John Wayne and Col. Evans Carlson, the Marine Corps commander of the famed Raider Battalion.

Jackson was wounded at Tarawa and received traumatic brain injuries that led to epilepsy and other problems that affected him until his death.

A Public Broadcasting System story on Jackson last summer described him as "irascible, over the top and sometimes opinionated," but praised him as a great artist.

"I was never an impressionist," Jackson said sharply during that interview. "I was an abstract expressionist."

He also said, "I don't give a damn how people remember me."

Jackson was born in Chicago in 1924 and came to Wyoming when he was 14.

He later studied art in Italy and in New York City.

"He became a cowboy, served on the front lines in WWII, was a combat artist, and was in New York City at a time when there was just an incredible amount of stuff going on," Matthew Jackson said. "He had been in a nursing home since May last year. It was an atypical environment for him. He was a man of action."

Marguerite House, of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, interviewed Jackson four years ago for a magazine story.

"He was from the East, but he was totally enamored by the West," she said. "It seemed he was always doing something out of his element. He had such a wide breadth of experiences that seemed to color all of his artwork."

Contact Martin Kidston at mkidston@billingsgazette.com or 307-527-7250.