Meet & Greet: Mary

Continuing our summer blog series, Meet & Greet, let’s get acquainted with Mary Burke, our Director.Mary Collage

Describe your job.

I lead a team of professionals who are talented, dedicated and creative and work well together and with our visitors. They make our collection of late 19th – early 20th century art of the American West accessible, inviting and relevant to the community, via the museum’s exhibitions, resources and programming for students, families and adults.

What does an average day entail?

“Average” varies, but normally it involves planning and organizing the upcoming exhibition, overseeing operational aspects of the museum and communicating with team members about the exhibition, resources, volunteers and programs, particularly regarding the development of school and public programming.

What’s the best part of your job?

Experiencing the professionalism of the museum’s team and seeing our amazing docents in action in the gallery. We have enthusiastic volunteers who dedicate many hours preparing for, and leading, tour experiences that help visitors make personal connections with our collection. And, I love working in the heart of Sundance Square!

What’s the most interesting fun fact you’ve learned about the collection?

The Bohlin Parade Saddle, a gift to Sid Richardson from Amon G. Carter and his son, bears a plate indicating Sid was the “Mayor of Primrose, Texas.” The gift represents the sense of camaraderie between Sid and Amon, as Primrose was actually a railroad cattle loading stop on Richardson’s Dutch Branch ranch. When the saddle was presented to Sid, it was accompanied by a plaque which read, in part, “To our mayor, the Hon. Sid W. Richardson, so that when he rides forth to inspect his vast ranges and huge cattle herds he may do so in comfort and the residents thereof, whether quadrupeds or bipeds, may be properly impressed and show to him the deference and due one of his official position.”BOHLIN SADDLE 019

Favorite work in the collection? Why?

Frederic Remington’s The Dry Camp.  Brilliant in color, it is ripe with ambiguity and tension, and for me, symbolic of moments in life when we are at a crossroad, not knowing exactly where a choice may lead us. Since Kat Yount previously selected this as her favorite work, I’ll mention my second favorite, Nai-U-Chi, Chief of the Bow, Zuni 1895 by Charles Francis Browne. There is quiet dignity depicted in this portrait. Nai-U-Chi seems contemplative, ready to offer sage advice. Come see it soon, because when our Western Treasures exhibit closes on September 14, the portrait won’t be on display again at the museum until the summer of 2015.

Charles Francis Browne, Nai-U-Chi: Chief Of The Bow, Zuni 1895, 1895, Oil on canvas, 18 1/2 x 12 3/4 inches

Charles Francis Browne, Nai-U-Chi: Chief Of The Bow, Zuni 1895, 1895, Oil on canvas, 18 1/2 x 12 3/4 inches

The Stories of Art of Story: Utica

This summer during our Art of Story children’s program, participants learn about the elements of storytelling by exploring the artwork in our galleries. To help illustrate the power of narrative, our docents often tell a story inspired by some of the paintings. A favorite among the collection is Russell’s Utica.

Charles M. Russell, Utica (A Quiet day in Utica), 1907, Oil on canvas, 24 1/8 x 36 1/8 inches

Charles M. Russell, Utica (A Quiet day in Utica), 1907, Oil on canvas, 24 1/8 x 36 1/8 inches

Utica and the upper Judith River country in Montana were among the last frontiers to be settled because of the frequent Indian raids and their great distance from the protection of forts. Family men hesitated to make their homes in the area until after the gold rush of 1879. The few scattered settlers before that were bachelors, the first of which to build a home, plow a furrow, and plant a crop was John Murphy.

Murphy had come from Utica, New York. Soon others from the same town followed. Murphy laid out some of the lots and plotted the village, which was named Utica, after his home town.

One incident in 1881 created a lot of excitement in Utica. Before Utica had an officially appointed postmaster, John Murphy’s cabin served as a post office for the convenience of settlers. It was winter and the roads were heavy with deep snow. The mail carrier’s wagon broke down. When he left on horseback, he took only the letters, leaving behind a heavier sack for the next trip, which would be in a couple of months or so. The remaining sack got kicked under Murphy’s bunk on the dirt floor of the cabin, becoming the dog bed for the next several months. Eventually, the sack was covered with dust and forgotten.

When the snow was gone, about middle of May, a detachment of soldiers from Fort McGinnis rode into Utica. They had been trailing a sack of money lost several months prior and asked if any had been found. The lost sack contained the $40,000 payroll for the soldiers at Fort McGinnis and had disappeared. While the men searched the cabin, Murphy remembered about the sack the dog had been sleeping on all winter.

“That’s it!” gasped the soldier. “That’s the $40,000 we’ve been moving heaven and earth to find, and it’s been a bed for your dog!”

After that, three of Utica’s doctors built the post office building on the east side of Main Street.

Adapted from Old Utica by Charles Waite.

Cultural Education

Last month we had a visit from the FWISD American Indian Education Program during their summer cultural camp. We caught up with AIEP Liaison Alice Barrientez to learn more about this program.IMG_3504

What is the American Indian Education Program?

AIEP is a grant funded program through the Office of Indian Education, U.S. Department of Education.  It provides academic support and cultural education for identified students who attend FWISD. Our goal is to ensure that each American Indian student successfully completes high school prepared for higher learning.

The program was implemented into school districts nationwide during the Kennedy administration. Research revealed that Native students were struggling. Reports indicated: high rate of dropouts, high rate in substance abuse, high rate in health issues both physical and mental.IMG_3521What kind of activities and cultural education opportunities does the program offer? 

The program delivers four camps throughout the school year.  The first camp focuses on language arts and includes a writing camp called PEN MAN, which provides an opportunity for students to enhance their writing skills and, for first time campers, to discover their tribal history, traditions and language.

The second camp is our science and math camp, called NASTUMLA, or Native American Science Technology Using Material from Land for Art. During this camp students walk back in time to learn the value and the evolution of fire making. Likewise, students discover how to distinguish plants that are edible and plants that are used for medicine.

Our other two camps include the Totem camp, focused on the roles of animals, and the Cultural camp, which is exploratory and provides hands-on activities.  These experiences are gained through visiting and utilizing our cultural based centers such as the Fort Worth Zoo, Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, Noble Planetarium and IMAX Omni Theater.

Why did you choose to visit the Sid Richardson Museum?

The Sid Richardson Museum’s collection captures Native culture on canvas, allowing our students to learn about various aspects of American Indian tradition. The collection also provides an opportunity to show the history of the U.S. and Native people before the influx of Western settlers, illustrating how both groups came to share the same land and learned to coexist.

The museum visit also includes a studio activity. Art is very much a part of American Indian culture. Painting in the studio is a great way for the students to express themselves.IMG_3582IMG_3532

Why is the American Indian Education Program important to the Fort Worth community?

It is important for the city to know that American Indians are part of the community. We are proud of our cultural history and want to educate the public about our heritage. As such, we hold an annual student Pow Wow at the Billingsley Field House behind Farrington Field stadium.

To learn more about this program, visit the FWISD website.

Happy Birthday, Frank!

Today marks SRM artist Frank Tenney Johnson’s birthday (1874-1939).

Although he spent much of his career in New York and California, Frank journeyed through Texas on several occasions, including his 1930 appearance at the annual Southwestern Exposition and Fat Stock Show in Fort Worth.

Previously, during the summer of 1921, en route to California on one of their many automobile excursions from New York, Frank Tenney Johnson and his wife Vinnie stopped in Texas. The artist had promised to personally deliver a painting that was purchased by Frank S. Hastings, manager of the SMS Ranch in West Texas. Earlier, Frank had made a drawing that became the frontispiece of Mr. Hasting’s autobiography, A Ranchman’s Recollections.

Frank Tenney Johnson from A Ranchman’s Recollections by Frank S. Hastings (Chicago: The Breeder’s Gazette, 1921)

Frank Tenney Johnson from A Ranchman’s Recollections by Frank S. Hastings (Chicago: The Breeder’s Gazette, 1921)

The sprawling SMS Ranch was named after the Swedish Svante Magnus Swenson, who came to Texas in 1838. After becoming a successful merchant in Richmond and Austin, Mr. Swenson purchased land grants out on the West Texas frontier. By the late 1870s, his two sons began developing the land. At the time of Frank Tenney Johnson’s visit, the SMS Ranch consisted of over 400,000 acres and covered parts of nine counties.

The news of the couple’s arrival in Stamford, Texas made it into the local newspaper. The story was even sent as a special dispatch and immediately published in the New York World. The Johnson’s stayed at the ranch, providing the artist with a wealth of lively material from which to sketch and photograph. In fact, several of the SMS cowboys and horses appear in his later paintings. One of his favorite models was a descendant of the Swenson family, the brawny A. M. G. “Swede” Swenson, who had been a star of the University of Texas football team.

Meet & Greet: Les

For the third installment of our summer blog series, Meet & Greet, let’s catch up with Les Cleere, our Site and Exhibitions Coordinator.Les collage

Describe your job.

I oversee the museum’s operating systems, HVAC, and lighting. I coordinate both sub-contractors involved in building maintenance and art handlers helping to setup for art installations/de-installations. I also setup and assist with special events and education programs.

What does an average day entail?

Changing lighting in the galleries as needed prior to morning tours, securing loading zone for the tour buses, and in some instances setting up seating in a gallery for tours or events, along with building maintenance, and work related to the collection – whether it be a light dusting of frames or measuring for new frames to be created in the future.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is having the opportunity to work closely with the museum’s collection and staff. I learn, see, and do something different most every day.

What’s the most interesting fun fact you’ve learned about the collection?

Charles Russell never tried to be anybody but himself, a man who took pleasure in his work. He knew his artwork was good and worth its value, and was blessed with a wife who, through her business savvy, helped Charlie receive the recognition he deserved.

Favorite work in the collection? Why?

My favorite work in the collection is Russell’s Western Scene. Charlie made do with the materials he had available – a huge plank of wood and some house paints. Over time, through his imagination and talent, he came a long way as an artist.

Charles M. Russell, Western Scene (The Shelton Saloon Painting), c. 1885, Oil on wood panel, 17 1/2 inches x 69 inches

Charles M. Russell, Western Scene (The Shelton Saloon Painting), c. 1885, Oil on wood panel, 17 1/2 inches x 69 inches

Stories of the West

Throughout the summer, in partnership with the Fort Worth Library’s Worth Reading Program, the museum is presenting Art of Story children’s workshops. This program is an opportunity for kids to explore the American West while learning how to compose a story.

Storytelling is important because stories help us connect with each other and are central to our mental processes for understanding, remembering, and communicating. Stories make it easy to learn and teach us the history and values of our people and other cultures. Plus, stories are fun!IMG_3319IMG_3357

Remington and Russell were great storytellers, as is evidenced in their paintings. Each artist had a different style of storytelling. Russell liked to capture the entire scene on a canvas, whereas Remington would leave clues that might hint to actions taking place beyond the picture plane. Through these artists’ works, our docents discuss character, setting, action, as well as myth and storytelling.IMG_3370IMG_3385 cropped

Inspired by the artwork in our galleries, the students take to the canvas, creating their own story by painting a landscape with authentic artist supplies.IMG_3397 editArt of story collage 1Art of Story collage 2IMG_3429 cropped

 To learn more about Worth Reading visit: www.Wr365.org.

Meet & Greet: Betsy

Continuing our summer blog series, Meet & Greet, let’s get acquainted with the Sid Richardson Museum’s Director of Education Resources, Betsy Thomas.IMG_2109Describe your job.

I oversee the Archives and Library, which houses all records related to the Museum’s collection and history (including ads and reproductions of the Museum’s artworks). As a part of the Education Department, I co-teach in the studio classroom, working with the Director of School and Family Programs in teaching hands-on art activities related to the works displayed in the Museum. I also assist the Museum Director with exhibition preparation and copyediting of Museum publications.

What does any average day entail?

I get to do so many different things that it’s hard to describe an average day.  Many days I start out in the studio classroom assisting school groups with their art projects. I scan and organize ads and reproduction requests pretty consistently.  Lately, I’ve been digitizing previously stored documents from the Museum’s 2006 renovation and expansion.

What’s the best part of your job?

Getting to try so many different things. I get to see aspects of how the Museum and other staff members work. Getting to work with the Director of School and Family Programs, for instance, with school groups, workshops, and camps is exciting.  I enjoy attending programs organized by the Adult Audiences Manager and see that side of the Museum’s programming. It’s also a privilege to work directly with the Museum’s Director on exhibition preparation.

What’s the most interesting fun fact you’ve learned about the collection?

One was the acquisition of Frederic Remington’s The Dry Camp, because it was purchased as a surprise for the opening of the Museum. It’s fun to read the letters during that time to get a glimpse into what was going on when the Museum first opened in 1982.mc1981_ 0020 Dry Camp Purchase

Favorite work in the collection? Why?

Probably A Taint on the Wind by Frederic Remington. Even though it has an ominous feeling about it, I love Remington’s nocturnes and his dramatic use of color and action. It’s a very striking painting. I always find myself gravitating towards it in the gallery.

Frederic Remington, A Taint On the Wind, 1906, Oil on canvas, 27 1/8 x 40 inches

Frederic Remington, A Taint On the Wind, 1906, Oil on canvas, 27 1/8 x 40 inches

Nocturnes

Contrabandista a la Frontera is unusual among Frank Tenney Johnson’s oeuvre, or collection of works, in portraying gunfire but representative in showing one of his favorite color schemes. This work suggests why Johnson’s reputation as a pure painter – an artist rather than an illustrator – secured his election as an associate in the National Academy of Design in 1929 and as a full member eight years later, a distinction bestowed upon only three other artists represented in our collection: Gilbert Gaul, William R. Leigh, and Peter Hurd.

Frank Tenney Johnson, Contrabandista a la Frontera, 1925, Oil on canvas, 36 1/8 x 45 1/8 inches

Frank Tenney Johnson, Contrabandista a la Frontera, 1925, Oil on canvas, 36 1/8 x 45 1/8 inches

Like Remington, Frank Tenney Johnson took an interest in representing night light, also referred to as nocturnes. As mentioned previously on the blog, a group of turn-of-the-century artists called tonalists followed a style of painting that was limited in color scale and explored the delicate effects of light to create suggestive moods. Johnson would have seen some of Remington’s best nocturnes during the artist’s one-man shows at M. Knoedler & Co. between 1906-1909. While Remington produced most of his night paintings during the latter years of his life, Johnson crafted compositions of moonlight, dusk, and twilight scenes for much of his career and earned his reputation as a fine artist from his nocturnes. In fact, it was one of his night scenes that warranted the artist his first award, the Salmagundi Club’s Shaw Prize, in 1923.

Frederic Remington, The Luckless Hunter, 1909, Oil on canvas, 26 7/8 x 28 7/8 inches

Frederic Remington, The Luckless Hunter, 1909, Oil on canvas, 26 7/8 x 28 7/8 inches

Tonalists intended the low-keyed colors of night to obscure, throwing a veil over the scene. However, for Johnson, the veil was one of beauty. He viewed moonlight as nature’s indirect lighting. In his composition, Contrabandista a la Frontera, the moonbeam spotlights the group of men, casting a greenish light on the scene. Despite the limited range in tone, one can still distinguish a variety of details and hues, as the moonlight exposes a multitude of colors. The painting glows.

Dutch Branch Ranch

I recently made a trip out to Dutch Branch Ranch, located southwest of Fort Worth. Sid Richardson bought the ranch in 1946. Previously, Dutch Branch Ranch was owned by Elliot Roosevelt, son of Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt. During Elliot’s tenure, President Roosevelt visited his son out on the Texas homestead on multiple occasions.

Carlton Penn, the ranch foreman while the Roosevelt’s occupied the ranch, stayed on as foreman when Mr. Richardson took over operation in the 1940s. Mr. Richardson never lived on the property, but rather it was one of his local bases for his ranching business.

The ranch originally totaled around 3,000 acres of land. Today, half of the estate sits under what is now Benbrook Lake. Still in operation, Dutch Branch Ranch is home to wide open fields, big blue skies, and inquisitive (but friendly) horses.DutchBranchRanch Collage

From Canvas to Screen

The Sid Richardson Museum features permanent and special exhibitions of art of the American West with an emphasis on the premier Western artists, Frederic Remington and Charles Russell. It is the work of these artists, among many others, that set the stage for Hollywood and the birth of Western films. This summer the museum is hosting a film series, Movies at the Museum, which will focus on classic Westerns.

Frederic Remington, The Apaches!, 1904, Oil on canvas, 25 x 30 inches

Frederic Remington, The Apaches!, 1904, Oil on canvas, 25 x 30 inches

Many of the early film directors were inspired by the artwork of Remington and Russell, using the artists’ iconic imagery as a model by which to capture the grittiness of frontier life and the beauty of the vast landscape. One of those directors (one of the best known among the genre) was John Ford. When addressing the Screen Directors Guild in 1950, John Ford introduced himself: “My Name’s John Ford. I make Westerns.” Ford made some 50 Westerns during a career that spanned almost 6 decades. This summer, we’ll be showing a few of those. You can find the full lineup of dates and film selections, along with registration, on our website.

John Ford was very familiar with the works of Russell and Remington, so much so that he instructed his cinematographer, Winton Hoch, to study the paintings of Frederic Remington. This practice guided the film maker in emulating the artist’s color and movement, which is evident in movies like She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. Likewise, the film evokes Remington’s military and cavalry scenes. Ford was also inspired by another artist in our collection, Charles Schreyvogel. Ford’s son recalled that the director kept a copy of a collection of Schreyvogel’s works besides his bed and pored over it to devise action sequences for his films.

Frederic Remington, Among The Led Horses, 1909, Oil on canvas, 27 x 40 inches

Frederic Remington, Among The Led Horses, 1909, Oil on canvas, 27 x 40 inches

 

Charles Schreyvogel, Attack on the Herd (Close Call), c. 1907, Oil on canvas, 26 1/8 x 34 1/4 inches

Charles Schreyvogel, Attack on the Herd (Close Call), c. 1907, Oil on canvas, 26 1/8 x 34 1/4 inches

Charles Russell was no stranger to Hollywood and was acquainted with many well-known figures like Will Rogers and Harry Carey (who worked with Ford in Wagon Master). In fact, Ford’s brother Francis knew Russell and would meet the artist at Harry Carey’s ranch on various occasions. Many movie makers noticed Russell’s incredible use of light in his art and worked to capture that quality in their films.

Charles M. Russell, Buffalo Bill's Duel With Yellowhand, 1917, Oil on canvas, 29 7/8 x 47 7/8 inches

Charles M. Russell, Buffalo Bill’s Duel With Yellowhand, 1917, Oil on canvas, 29 7/8 x 47 7/8 inches

Each film in our summer series offers a challenge to our visitors:  to think about the paintings in our collection and see how the influences of these artists has permeated the look and composition of the film. What elements of Remington and Russell can one find? Movies at the Museum is a fun way to engage with the collection. And who doesn’t love a good Western?