Sculptor Howard Neville brings history to life with ‘country doctor’ |

Sculptor Howard Neville brings history to life with ‘country doctor’

Reid Tulley
A miniature version of the sculpture of Dr. Ernest "Doc" Ceriani being created by local artist Howard Neville. Ceriani was a doctor in Kremmling and was made famous through a 1948 photo essay in Life Magazine. Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi News
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi News | Sky-Hi News

KREMMLING — Artist Howard Neville will be creating a sculpture to immortalize Dr. Ernest “Doc” Ceriani, a Kremmling doctor who was made famous through W. Eugene Smith’s photographs and essay published in Life Magazine in 1948 titled “Country Doctor.”

Eugene Smith’s photo-essay of Ceriani chronicled the everyday life of a rural doctor over a 23-day period, where the words “general practitioner” take on a whole new meaning.

Ceriani took over the new hospital in 1947 after the Middle Park Hospital Association bought the home of the town’s previous doctor, Dr. Arthur Sudan, and converted it into a hospital with four private rooms, three wards for six patients each, living quarters for hospital personnel, an office, exam room, operating room, and x-ray room. The hospital was staffed with only two nurses who supported Ceriani.

Rural physicians like Ceriani were the only sources of medical help for people who lived in remote communities, and the doctors often made home calls. As one of the only physicians for miles, Ceriani was required to always be on call.

Ceriani was devoted to the rural communities and would often have to sacrifice his leisure time to tend to emergencies, which were common in the ranching communities he served.

The artist

Howard Neville, of Grand Lake, has completed a number of sculptures that now inhabit different places within the county, including the sculpture of Ike Eisenhower that can be found near the Fraser River in Fraser. Historical figures in the county are Neville’s specialty and he plans to make a sculpture of “Doc” Susie, a dedicated Fraser doctor, to compliment his rendition of Ceriani.

Neville also has a unique way of funding his project. He creates and sells a number of miniature sculptures to fund the creation of the life-sized sculpture.

Buying the materials and completing the process of creating a bronze sculpture is extremely involved and pricey, so Neville will sometimes seek out other source of funding for his projects such as asking town boards to chip in to help him create his sculptures of historical figures in Grand County.

Neville chooses to use bronze in his sculptures due to the low-maintenance costs and the long life of the finished product. “There are lots of things you can sculpt with, but nothing lasts like bronze,” Neville said.

Neville drew inspiration for the Ceriani piece from the 1947 photo-essay by W. Eugene Smith and is creating the sculpture using one of the pictures from the series of photos in the magazine.

“To have this one person inspire a very famous photographer to come to Grand County and take pictures of him inspired me,” Neville said.

Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334

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