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The Burning House-Painting-Thom Ross-Sorrel Sky Gallery
The Burning House-Painting-Thom Ross-Sorrel Sky Gallery
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Ballet for Billy the Kid; Escape from the McSween Home

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Acrylic on canvas, 60" x 60"

The final act of the Lincoln County War was the gunfight at the McSween's house in Lincoln. Alexander McSween was killed in this battle along with a few other men on both sides. When the house was "fired," Billy, as seen here, and some friends darted out the back door amidst flames, smoke, and bullets. The Kid made it safely to the Rio Bonita and escaped into the darkness. With the end of the "war," the winning side declared themselves the law and the other side (which included the Kid) were deemed outlaws; thus began the long hunt by sheriff Pat Garrett for Billy and the story rises to the climatic scene where Garrett kills the Kid with the proverbial "shot in the dark."

This painting is part of a series I was doing on the true story of Billy the Kid but inspired by Aaron Copeland's 1938 "Ballet for Billy the Kid".

The famous ballet (music by Copeland and choreography by Eugene Loring) has very little to do with the actual true story of the Kid.  What I wanted to do was tell the true story of the Kid but paint it as though it was, again, a ballet being performed on a stage.  Indeed, you can see the spotlight coming down from above and casting a semi-circular light on the dance floor.

In this scene, Billy and a friend are shown running from the burning McSween home; this is a true incident and signaled the end of the Lincoln County War (1877 - 1878).  The Kid got away but was then declared an outlaw by the winning faction.  Within 3 years he would be hunted down and shot dead by Lincoln County sheriff, Pat Garrett.

In the attached image you can see Eugene Loring, himself, as Billy (far left) as he shuffles cards during a poker game from the actual ballet; the two other men at right are looking at their imaginary cards.