Denver Offers a New Look at the Old West with World’s First Exhibition of American West Bronzes
All the romance, history and adventure of the American West comes to life in the first full-scale exhibition of western bronzes ever put together: The American West in Bronze, 1850–1925, running at the Denver Art Museum, May 11-August 31, 2014.
The exhibition of 72 bronze sculptures by 28 artists, including classic works by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, is co-curated by the Denver Art Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The exhibition will appear only in Denver, New York and the Nanjing Museum in China.
Artists featured in the exhibition range from those internationally recognized for their work in bronze such as Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, to local Denver masters such as Alexander Phimister Proctor, to artists who infrequently pursued western subjects such as Frederick William MacMonnies and art deco artist Paul Manship.
Whether based on fact, fiction or something in-between, these three-dimensional interpretations of the American West have been popular with audiences for 100 years. The sculptures are arranged in four galleries: American Indians, cowboys, pioneers and the animals of the plains and the Rocky Mountains. Many of the artists were rigorously trained in New York and Paris and used sophisticated techniques to produce bronzes that were celebrated at home and abroad as authentically American. Remington, who was already well known as an illustrator and painter, turned to sculpture in the mid-1890s. His first effort, The Broncho Buster (1895), is one of the most popular bronzes in American art history and his statue of an Indian in battle, The Cheyenne (1901), with its extraordinary action, may be the finest bronze he ever produced.
Paintings by Remington and Russell are included in the exhibit to show how the artists often incorporated details from that medium into their three-dimensional sculptures. Being self-trained in sculpture, Remington didn’t know what he wasn’t supposed to do, and therefore brought a fresh prospective to bronzes, creating some of the most action-oriented sculptures of his day. From detailed portrayals of dignified American Indians to rough-and-tumble scenes of rowdy cowboys and tributes to the stalwart pioneers who settled the lands west of the Mississippi, The American West in Bronze explores themes of the Old West brought to life in enduringly popular sculptures.
Denver is a Center for Western Art
The American West in Bronze exhibition is just the beginning. Some other places in The Mile High City with exhibitions of Western Art include:
The Denver Art Museum’s American Indian collection offers visitors the opportunity to experience the artistic vision of American Indian artists from across North America. From ancient Puebloan ceramics, to 19th century Arapaho beaded garments, the museum offers a look at the rich diversity of artistic styles, representing works from nearly every tribe across the United States and Canada, from prehistoric times to the present. Beginning in the 1920s, the Denver Art Museum was the first art museum in the United States to collect American Indian art. Over the past century the collection has grown to encyclopedic proportions and now contains nearly 20,000 art objects.
The American Museum of Western Art. Opened in 2010 as the home of The Anschutz Collection, the museum contains one of the nation’s most outstanding collections of Western art, representing more than a century of changing artistic styles. The museum is housed in the beautiful 1880 Navarre Building. Over its checkered history, the Navarre has been everything from a co-educational college to a bordello and gambling hall. Paintings are hung salon style, typical of the 19th Century, and cover all periods of Western art, from the early expeditionary artists to the Expressionists. Included are masterpieces by Alfred Jacob Miller, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell, Georgia O’Keeffe, Thomas Hart Benton and Maynard Dixon. Because of the small size of the museum, there are only limited viewing times three days a week. This is one of the great treasures and hidden gems of Denver and of Western art, and worth seeking out.
The Leanin’ Tree Museum and Sculpture Garden of Western and Wildlife Art. This free museum in Boulder (27 miles from Denver) features fine art paintings and bronzes of western America created after 1930. The collection consists of cowboys, Indians, wildlife and landscapes. Some 250 paintings and 150 bronze sculptures created by more than 100 artists are on permanent display. The museum, one of the largest privately owned collections of Western art in the nation, is free (with free parking) for self-guided tours.
Buffalo Bill’s Grave & Museum. Located high on top of Lookout Mountain, this is the final resting spot of the West’s most famous scout, Pony Express rider, and showman. William F. Cody was the world’s first superstar. From 1883 to 1913, he and his show, “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,” toured the globe, performing in more than a thousand cities in a dozen different nations. At its height, the show played before the crowned heads of Europe, used 52 railroad box cars, employed more 640 cowboys, Indians, vaqueros and rough riders and had 600 horses. As a comparison, Beyonce’s 2013 world tour had only 80 performers (no animals). It is estimated that more than 25 million words were written about Cody during his lifetime. The history, the legends and the myths about this remarkable man come to life at the Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum, which includes many classic paintings, photographs and posters of Buffalo Bill. Located just a few feet from his grave site, the museum follows Cody’s life from his early childhood in a wagon train to thrilling days as a buffalo hunter and army scout to his death in Denver in 1917. The museum includes exhibits on the woman of the “Wild West” such as Annie Oakley, and artifacts from the Native Americans who worked in the show, including Sitting Bull.