Denver Art Museum

Denver, CO



Painters and the American West


A Kiowa poet once remarked that the American West "is a place that has to be seen to be believed, and it may have to be believed in order to be seen." This fall, visitors to the Denver Art Museum have a unique opportunity to explore and challenge their own perceptions of the West when Painters and the American West makes its Denver debut before embarking on a cross-country tour. (left: Ernest Leonard Blumenschein, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, 1926, oil on canvas, The Anschutz Collection)

This astonishing collection of more than 100 privately-held works that spans nearly 180 years of American history opens on October 21, 2000, and remains on view through January 21, 2001.

Assembled from works in The Anschutz Collection, the West's fabled history is depicted by some of this country's most important artists - including Frederic Remington, Thomas Moran, Albert Bierstadt, George Catlin, John Sloan, Ernest Leonard Blumenschein and many others. Even for those artists who chose not to go west, the very existence of the territory had a far reaching influence on their careers. Painters and the American West broadens our idea of western art from a narrow and provincial artistic category and elevates it to a new position in American art. In an article in Los Angeles magazine, James Nottage, chief curator at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Griffith Park, calls the Anschutz Collection "one of the best collections of Western art ever assembled." (left: Frederic Remington, Turn Him Loose, Bill!, c. 1893, oil on canvas, The Anschutz Collection)

The exhibition provides visitors with a fascinating assemblage of paintings that includes well-known masters of this artistic style alongside some surprising additions. The introductory gallery, The First Painters of the American West, reveals how western subjects began to appear in American art as early as the 1820s. Museumgoers will see multiple works by the pioneers of the field, including George Catlin, Alfred Jacob Miller, George Caleb Bingham and William Tylee Ranney, among others.

The Western Landscape gallery illustrates how the origins of American western landscape art descended from the Hudson River School -- that group of 19th century artists who took their inspiration from the lush countryside surroundings. Here, many acclaimed artists and their stunningly beautiful paintings can be found, including Albert Bierstadt's majestic Wind River, Wyoming (l870), Thomas Moran's powerful Children of the Mountain (1867), as well as a more serene work by Ralph Albert Blakelock entitled Indian Encampment Along the Snake River (1871). In this gallery, visitors will have a chance to take in the many wonders of these works with viewing tubes - devices often used by art lovers in the 19th century.

Many interpretations of the personalities that characterize our most common perceptions of the West -- the Plains Indian, United States cavalrymen, and, of course, the cowboy -- are depicted in The Romance of the Old West gallery. Many of these idealized portrayals include paintings by the western art world's elite, such as Frederic Remington and his gripping Return of a Blackfoot War Party (1887), Charles M. Russell's The Scouts (1902), as well as numerous other works by lesser known artists such as Charles Schreyvogel and Fletcher Martin.

As visitors to the Denver Art Museum have come to expect, the exhibition also features a space that offers a more relaxed atmosphere. The Salon is a showplace for artworks closely hung together m a gallery appointed with period furniture where visitors can spend as much time as they like learning more about the Old West by browsing through books or listening to music. In the tradition of a 19th century juried exhibition, visitors to The Salon will also be able to look through viewing tubes to take a closer look at hidden details in the works, and then cast a vote for the painting that stands as their favorite. Artists featured here are Andrew Dasburg, Frank Albert Mechau, Jr., William Victor Higgins, and many others.

A more intimate grouping of paintings in two small galleries highlights the work of the California Painters, a sophisticated group of artists who traveled to San Francisco in the mid to late 19th century, including Charles Christian Nahl, Thomas Hill and Carl William Hahn. The other gallery, Modern Landscape, introduces viewers to works such as Jules Tavernier's Waiting for Montezuma (1879); John Henry Twachtman's Canyon in the Yellowstone (1895), and Walter Ufer's Where the Desert Meets the Mountain (1926). It might surprise some viewers to see works in this section by famous eastern artists, such as Childe Hassam.

The unique combination of a boundless desert landscape with its iridescent light and luminous color, together with the region's rich cultural heritage, attracted East Coast artists to New Mexico as early as 1898. No comprehensive collection of western art would be complete without representation from the Taos and Santa Fe Colonies. Three entire galleries showcase some of the collection's greatest strengths through the works of Bert Geer Phillips, Ernest Leonard Blumenschein, Joseph Henry Sharp, Gerald Ira Diamond Cassidy, Ernest Martin Hennings, Bror Julius Olsson Nordfeldt, Robert Henri, John Sloan, and others. (left: Bror Julius Olsson Nordfeldt, Still Life with Santo, c. 1930, oil on canvas, The Anschutz Collection)

A 218-page book about the collection features over 200 full-color illustrations plus essays by Joan Carpenter Troccoli and Sarah Anschutz Hunt. Published by the Denver Art Museum and Yale University, it is available in the Museum Shop.

Painters and the American West is organized and circulated by the Denver Art Museum. Joan Carpenter Troccoli, Deputy Director of the Denver Art Museum, curates the exhibition. A national tour of Painters and the American West includes the following venues: The Corcoran Gallery of Art , Washington, D.C., May 9 through July 30, 2001; Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE, November 3, 2001 through January 13, 2002; and The Art Institute of Chicago , Summer 2003. (left: Jan Matulka, Indian Festival in Arizona, c. 1917-18, oil on canvas, The Anschutz Collection)

The organization of this exhibition is generously underwritten by KPMG LLP and KPMG Consulting, Inc.


July, 2005 addendum:

The following text is excerpted from an February 2002 article in the Rocky Mountain Princeeton Club Newsletter

"The full Anschutz Collection of Western Ar consisting of more than 650 oil paintings, drawings and sculptures, is housed permanently in Denver in the Navarre Building, itself a masterpiece of the late 19th Century, purchased by the Anschutz Corporation in 1997 and restored to its original elegance. The collection spans the detailed, early 1830's images of now vanished tribes captured by George Catlin, to the 1940's works of Georgia O'Keefe, and includes pieces by Bierstadt, Moran, Bingham, Remington, Russell and Schreyvogel, to name a few of the more than 200 artists represented."


Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Denver Art Museum in Resource Library.

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

Links to sources of information outside of our web site are provided only as referrals for your further consideration. Please use due diligence in judging the quality of information contained in these and all other web sites. Information from linked sources may be inaccurate or out of date. TFAO neither recommends or endorses these referenced organizations. Although TFAO includes links to other web sites, it takes no responsibility for the content or information contained on those other sites, nor exerts any editorial or other control over them. For more information on evaluating web pages see TFAO's General Resources section in Online Resources for Collectors and Students of Art History.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 4/6/11

Search Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.

Copyright 2011 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.