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Grand Canyon Grandeur: Early Paintings and Prints from the Hays Collection

February 9 - May 26, 2008


Many of America's greatest artists have tried to capture the majesty of the Grand Canyon in their work, challenging both their perception and their skill. Grand Canyon Grandeur: Early Paintings and Prints from the Hays Collection, a new exhibit opening Saturday, February 9 and running through Monday, May 26, 2008 at the Museum of Northern Arizona, brings together a who's who of preeminent artists who chose Grand Canyon as their subject. The artworks in this exhibit are from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. A. P. Hays of Paradise Valley, Arizona. (right: Thomas Moran, N.A., Grand Canyon of Arizona from Hermit Rim Road, 1912)

This exhibit's 24 artists labored from 1854 to the mid-1930s to reproduce a small measure of the canyon's monumental beauty in their 55 works in this show. Many strived for detailed realism, while others saw the canyon as atmospheric and impressionistic. Among the exhibit's artists are masters such as Louis Akin, Carl Oscar Borg, George Elbert Burr, Thomas Moran, and Gunnar Widforss.

Collector Abe Hays has assembled art and artifacts most of his life. Together with his wife Lalla, Hays also has important collections of four artists who are prominent in the current exhibition, Carl Oscar Borg, George Elbert Burr, Edgar Alwin Payne, and Gunnar Widforss. The Hayses also have major collections of Western artists Maynard Dixon, Will James, and Lon Megargee, which have been shown at major museums in the U.S. and Canada.

Collector Abe Hays states, "For sixty years I have been trying to collect art of the Grand Canyon, Colorado Plateau, and other Arizona subjects, in both prints and paintings. At the top of my collecting interests are the Grand Canyon and Walpi, as I consider both to be the most important and relevant to our state's history. I particularly like to collect worthwhile artists whose best known and accomplished artwork was done in Arizona. In addition to those artists, I value William Henry Holmes, William R. Leigh, and Julian Scott. I have felt a responsibility to collect in this field and to provide the artists' works for future generations to enjoy."

MNA Curator of Fine Art Alan Petersen adds, "The Hays Collection contains some of the Southwest's finest work, created by outstanding artists from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Grand Canyon Grandeur dramatically illustrates the creative richness of a period that could be called a "Golden Age" of Western art. This period followed the exploration of the Great Surveys, when the Santa Fe Railroad, Fred Harvey Company, and other business interests began to bring enthusiastic attention to the beauty of the Southwestern landscape and cultures. The artwork in this exhibit has a vibrancy that reflects the artists' fascination with the newly revealed landscape of Grand Canyon and their ability to convey the intensity of what it meant to encounter this landscape."


Public Programs

Public programs are included with museum admission.
February 9
2:30-3:30 p.m.                       
Grand Canyon Grandeur Gallery Tour     
Take a tour of the Grand Canyon Grandeur exhibit with collector Abe Hays and MNA Curator of Fine Arts Alan Petersen. Learn about the artists and their work that make this collection of early Grand Canyon paintings so rich and fascinating. Hays will also discuss his passion and motivation for collecting the finest Southwestern art.
March 8
2-3 p.m.              
The Incredible Canyon
Scott Thybony talks about his new book The Incredible Canyon. It includes bits of canyon lore which have slipped through the cracks and a few of the classic stories that still resonate. Thybony covers canyon characters, both certifiable and aspiring, with the best of the tall tales trimmed down to size. He includes a few scandals, a little romance, and some grand schemes gone awry. And since people never seem to tire of hearing about other people getting in over their heads, there are a few cliffhangers thrown in. Geared for both canyon junkies and first-timers, Thybony's talk offers a light take on the hard facts. A book sale and signing will follow this presentation. 
March 15
2-3 p.m.                       
Early Paintings of the Grand Canyon
Following the completion of John Wesley Powell's survey of the Grand Canyon region in 1880, artists were attracted to the canyon in ever-increasing numbers. Patronage of the arts by the Santa Fe Railroad helped to publicize the Grand Canyon and the greater Southwest as an exciting destination, as well as give artists a strong market for their work. Discover the rich history of Grand Canyon art created in the early decades of the twentieth century with MNA Curator of Fine Arts Alan Petersen.
March 22
2-3 p.m.                       
Bruce Aiken's Grand Canyon: An Intimate Affair
In a remote side canyon along a stream that flows into the Colorado River, Bruce and his wife Mary raised three children while he tended Grand Canyon National Park's precious water supply at Roaring Springs . . . and painted. Out of this intimate relationship between the artist and his canyon muse came a body of work unparalleled in the annals of Grand Canyon landscape painters. Join Aiken as he shares his story with a visual presentation of more than thirty years of living and painting at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. This event celebrates the publication of the new book Bruce Aiken's Grand Canyon: An Intimate Affair, published by the Grand Canyon Association. A book sale and signing will follow this presentation. 
March 29
10-11 a.m.                   
It's a Squirrel's Life!
Anyone who has seen an Abert's squirrel in the forests around Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon knows that the tassel-eared squirrel is one of the cutest squirrels in the world. No one knows just how amazing these squirrels can be until they hear Northern Arizona University Biology Professor Sylvester Allred talk about them and the importance of their forest home. Allred will read from his new book Rascal, the Tassel-Eared Squirrel and MNA docents will present a squirrel puppet show and craft activity.A book sale and signing will follow this youth and family program.                                 
March 29
2-3 p.m.             
Imaging a People                                    
When the Havasupai people asked Steve and Lois Hirst to document their life and history, the Hirsts made visual records a large part their effort. They and photographer friends Terry and Lyntha Eiler enjoyed unique opportunities to record everyday lives of Havasupai friends and neighbors. At the same time, while combing museums and archives across the country, the Hirsts also discovered hundreds of exquisite historic photographs, many over a century old and never before seen. The Hirsts will share examples of early and contemporary imagery and discuss how they located and identified early portraiture. A book sale and signing will follow this presentation. 

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