Artist as Recorder

Over the weekend, in celebration of the art museum’s new exhibition, Take Two: George Catlin Revisits the West, we hosted a children’s workshop. Through sketching and painting activities, participants spent time considering George Catlin’s role as recorder before mass photography, documenting the great American West during his travels in the 1830s.

While in the galleries, docents discussed traveling artists in the 1800s and how the act of documenting what they saw contributes to our American History today.Artist as Recorder 1

After learning about Catlin, everyone received a canvas travel backpack and sketching supplies and undertook the role of recorder as they traveled the gallery to document with their new art tools what they had seen and learned. artist as recorder 2

The adventure continued in the studio classroom where participants created their very own scene in paint inspired by the collection and their sketches. In addition to their sketching supplies, each student received a take-home painting kit complete with brushes, acrylic paint, and painting paper.artist as recorder 3

A Russell Documentary

Recently, the museum received a special visit from Montana PBS, which is currently filming a documentary about Charlie Russell and his time in the American West.  Writer and producer, Paul Zalis, is working with many scholars and institutions on this project, including yours truly. One of the project’s chief scholars is Dr. Brian Dippie who is also the guest curator for our current exhibition, Take Two: George Catlin Revisits the West.

Mr. Zalis and his crew filmed Dr. Dippie and Western art scholar, Dr. Rick Stewart, as they toured our collection. PBS Montana 1PBS Montana 2

Let’s chat with Paul Zalis to learn more about the project.

Why a documentary about Charlie Russell?  

Making a documentary on Charlie Russell was actually an in-the-shower, light bulb, “Ahaa!” moment that my co-producer, Gus Chambers, had. No one has ever done a serious documentary on Russell, which is kind of astounding. Beyond that, Russell is revered in Montana. He is almost our patron saint. But traveling around the States, I realized that the farther I got away from Big Sky country, the less people know who he was. Charlie truly was a great, iconic American, and it’s about time to re-introduce him to the American public.

What drew you to the Sid Richardson Museum?  

Sid Richardson was, along with people like Tom Gilcrease and Amon Carter, one of the great, early collectors of Russell’s work. We had heard what a wonderful, intimate museum the Sid Richardson is, and the thoughtful, concise collection at SRM, just off Sundance Square, is a splendid way for people to see, side-by-side, two of America’s greatest Western artists:  Russell and Remington. Mary Burke and the staff have done a wonderful job making the SRM such an inviting space.

What has been the most interesting fact/story you’ve learned about Charlie Russell from your visits with scholars and museums?

The stories and facts are too numerous and too challenging to categorize, but on a personal level, to me and many others,  Russell was an artistic genius, but perhaps his greatest attribute was his sheer likeability and his loyalty to his friends. The word ‘authentic’ is often too easily tossed around, but Charlie was the real deal.

What would you like audiences to learn from watching your film?

The film is far from finished, but we hope that people will not only learn about an extraordinary artist and man who lived and bore witness to a passing era in American history, but through his art work and influence in the early Hollywood film industry, he was ultimately a man who helped shape our image of ourselves as Westerners and Americans.

When/how can audiences outside of Montana view your film?

There will be two films:  A 3-part, 3-hr. mini-series to premiere in Montana the Fall of 2015, and soon thereafter, a one-hour film that will be distributed nationally, and made available to all public television stations, either through PBS or American Public Television.

Happy Birthday, Oscar!

Today marks the birthday of Oscar Berninghaus, another artist represented in our collection. Berninghaus is best known as a painter of the Southwest. Although born and raised in St. Louis, the young artist became enamored with Taos, New Mexico after his first trip West in 1899.

The same year New Mexico became a state in 1912, Berninghaus helped found the Taos Society of Artists. The other founding members include Joseph Sharp, Bert Phillips, Ernest Blumenschein, Irving Couse, and Herbert Dunton. The main mission of the Society was to promote the sale of paintings by its members. Since there wasn’t a gallery in Taos at the time, the group organized exhibitions to travel to galleries back East in major art markets like New York, Chicago, and St. Louis.

Through their efforts, the Society put Taos on the map. Painters, sculptors, writers, and other leading intellectuals flocked to the small Southwest town, including Mabel Dodge, D.H. Lawrence, Andrew Dasburg, and Georgia O’Keeffe. By the 1920s, Taos had become one of the great art centers of the world.

Many were looking to Taos as a leader of a real American style, with members of the Society receiving rave reviews. Critics claimed that Berninghaus offered work that is all-American. The horses depicted were, in their essence, American. The desert is American. His was a “real” American art.

Oscar E. Berninghaus, The Forty-Niners, Before 1942, Oil on canvas, 26 1/4 x 36 1/4 inches

Oscar E. Berninghaus, The Forty-Niners, Before 1942, Oil on canvas, 26 1/4 x 36 1/4 inches

Happy Birthday, William R. Leigh!

Today marks the birthday of another SRM artist, William Robinson Leigh. Of the painters who gained fame as delineators of the American West around the turn of the century, Leigh is routinely cited as the most thoroughly trained. He studied at the Maryland Institute in Baltimore at the age of 14 and left for Germany a few years later to attend the Royal Academy in Munich.

William R. Leigh | Bears in the Path (Surprise) | 1904 | Oil on canvas | 21 1/8 x 33 1/8 inches

William R. Leigh | Bears in the Path (Surprise) | 1904 | Oil on canvas | 21 1/8 x 33 1/8 inches

In 1900, after having met the American landscape artist Thomas Moran and hearing of the artist’s appeal for more native art rather than imitations of foreign styles, Leigh confirmed his interest in the West. Leigh wished to paint what he thought to be uniquely American, and for Leigh, the West embodied everything that was intrinsically American. But it was not until the artist was nearly 40 that he was able to pursue his boyhood dream of painting the American West.

In 1906, Leigh traveled to New Mexico. The artist fell in love with the desert country and returned to the Southwest every summer for the next three years. Beginning in 1910, Leigh also accepted invitations to join hunting trips to the Yellowstone region and the high ranges of the Rockies. It was during these journeys to the West when Leigh had his first encounter with American Indians of the Crow and Sioux tribes.

In the thirties, Leigh also wrote articles, plays, and short stories while teaching at the Art Students League and the New York Evening School of Industrial Art. Leigh continued to paint scenes of the West, with the works of his last fifteen years to be considered among his greatest. Formally recognized by the National Academy of Design, Leigh was given the title National Academician in 1955, days before his death. Leigh died on March 11, 1955, after a productive morning of painting.

William R. Leigh | The Hold Up (The Ambush) | 1903 | Oil on canvas | 32 3/4 x 22 3/4 inches

William R. Leigh | The Hold Up (The Ambush) | 1903 | Oil on canvas | 32 3/4 x 22 3/4 inches

Take Two, Part Two

As mentioned previously, the museum is closed until September 25, when we reopen with a new exhibition, Take Two: George Catlin Revisits the West. The exhibit will feature 17 paintings from Catlin’s Second Indian Gallery. But wait, who is George Catlin and what are his Indian Galleries?

George Catlin (1796-1872) was a self-taught, self-supporting and self-motivated artist, author, showman, promoter, entrepreneur, and ethnographer. Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. and trained in the law, he chose art instead. Having the foresight in the 1830s that American Indian cultures were vanishing, he made it his lifelong mission to create a record of all native life in the Americas for future generations.

“Buffalo Chase––Bulls Protecting the Calves,” George Catlin (1796-1872), (Cartoon No. 153) Oil on card mounted on paperboard, 18 1/2 x 25 1/16 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

“Buffalo Chase––Bulls Protecting the Calves,” George Catlin (1796-1872), (Cartoon No. 153) Oil on card mounted on paperboard, 18 1/2 x 25 1/16 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

Catlin’s First Indian Gallery

He painted 500 Native American portraits and scenes of everyday life of 48 Indian tribes—buffalo hunts, dances, games, amusements, rituals, and religious ceremonies—that he witnessed on summer excursions in 1832, 1834, 1835, and 1836. The prolific painter was tireless in publicizing his work; he continually sent letters of his travels to be published in newspapers, and he gave lectures showing Indian costumes and artifacts.

He thought his Indian Gallery deserved government patronage. But when he failed to persuade Congress to buy his paintings, Catlin left America at the end of 1839 to find a new audience and new prospects abroad. He would not return until 1871.

Despite the promise of a French king’s commission for Catlin’s La Salle Expedition series, he was unable to find a patron and faced bankruptcy in 1852. Joseph Harrison, a Philadelphia industrialist, paid Catlin’s debts and held the first Indian Gallery as collateral. Catlin was never able to retrieve the Indian Gallery.

Catlin’s Second Indian Gallery

Alleged to have traveled extensively to a number of countries principally in South America from 1854 to 1860, he then settled in Brussels, Belgium. From 1860 to 1870, he completed a second Indian Gallery, which he called the Cartoon Collection. He called these oil paintings “cartoons,” explaining that they were yet unfinished. Relying on his memory of experiences with the American Indians in the 1830s, he drew from images in his first Indian Gallery, adding new subjects from the 1850s to the 1860s. Of the estimated 600 cartoons that he painted, there are 351 in the Mellon Collection, 17 of which are presented in Take Two.

Catlin exhibited the Cartoon Collection in 1870, first in Brussels, then in New York and Washington, D.C., where, in bad health and nearly deaf, he died in 1872.

“Mandan War Chief with His Favorite Wife,” George Catlin (1796-1872),  (Cartoon No. 30) Oil on card mounted on paperboard, 18 ¼ x 24 5/16 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

“Mandan War Chief with His Favorite Wife,” George Catlin (1796-1872), (Cartoon No. 30) Oil on card mounted on paperboard, 18 ¼ x 24 5/16 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

Catlin’s Astonishing Visual Legacy

Although Catlin never secured government patronage, his dream of creating a comprehensive visual record of native life in the Americas was nearly fulfilled after his death. In 1879, Joseph Harrison’s widow donated the first Indian Gallery, more than 500 paintings, to the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. In 1912, Catlin’s heirs sold the Cartoon Collection to the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In 1965, the late Paul Mellon, philanthropist and board member of the National Gallery of Art, purchased works in the Cartoon Collection offered for sale by the American Museum of Natural History. Of the paintings that he purchased, he donated 351 to the National Gallery of Art, located just a few blocks from the Smithsonian.

“Catlin Feasted by the Mandan Chief,” George Catlin (1796-1872), (Cartoon No. 133:  The author feasted in the wigwam of Mah-to-toh-pa, the war chief of the Mandans, dining on a roast rib of buffalo and pemican.) Oil on card mounted on paperboard, 18 ¼ x 24 9/16 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

“Catlin Feasted by the Mandan Chief,” George Catlin (1796-1872), (Cartoon No. 133: The author feasted in the wigwam of Mah-to-toh-pa, the war chief of the Mandans, dining on a roast rib of buffalo and pemican.) Oil on card mounted on paperboard, 18 ¼ x 24 9/16 in., National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Collection

Take Two: George Catlin Revisits the West

Autumn is just around the corner, and with a new season comes a new exhibition. Sunday, September 14 is the last day of Western Treasures, after which time the museum will be closed in preparation for an exciting new exhibition, Take Two: George Catlin Revisits the West. The 17 paintings in the exhibition portraying eight American Indian tribes are from Catlin’s Cartoon Collection on loan from The Paul Mellon Collection at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Thirteen of the works have never before been exhibited in Texas.

In addition, a rare Deluxe edition of the most famous book published in the 19th century on the American Indian, Catlin’s Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians, and two of Catlin’s American Indian portfolios will be on loan from a private collection. Selections from the portfolios will be on display and rotate throughout the exhibition.Catlin Book CollageCatlin Portfolio Collage

Driven by his lifelong mission to create a record of all Indian cultures in the Americas for future generations, George Catlin (1796-1872) was the most influential 19th century American painter of American Indians. He completed more than 1,100 paintings and drawings of everyday life of Indians that included buffalo hunts, dances, games, amusements, rituals, portraits, and religious ceremonies. His pictorial history is the most complete collection of paintings that show Native American cultures in the West in the 1830s. There is no body of artistic images of the Indians comparable to Catlin’s in terms of being early and influential because of his exhibitions and books.

Catlin is a natural fit for our museum. Two of the preeminent artists of the American West, Charles Russell and Frederic Remington, also devoted themselves to Western themes, painting with a sense of nostalgia for a West that was then passing or had already passed. Catlin, who recorded the cultural life of the Native Americans he encountered on his travels west of the Mississippi in the 1830s, painted anticipating a time in the future when the manners and customs of the American Indian would be lost.

Catlin visited 48 Indian tribes in the 1830s and completed some 500 paintings known as the Indian Gallery. He had to forfeit the Indian Gallery to industrialist Joseph Harrison in 1852 to pay off his creditors. He then started working on what became known as his second Indian Gallery, which he referred to as his Cartoon Collection, explaining that the paintings were preliminary.

The title of this exhibition, Take Two: George Catlin Revisits the West, refers to Catlin’s recreation of his first Indian Gallery. Relying on his memory of experiences with the American Indians in the 1830s, he drew from images in his first Indian Gallery, adding new subjects during the 1850s and 1860s, until he completed his second Indian Gallery of more than 600 paintings.

The guest curator for Take Two is Brian W. Dippie, Ph.D., professor emeritus of history at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. Dr. Dippie is a specialist in the history of Western American art and has published extensively on George Catlin. “This second take on his subjects is important in understanding his circumstances and in understanding the enlarged record of the American Indian that he provided,” said Dippie. “The two goals of the exhibition are to illuminate the guiding principles behind Catlin’s entire enterprise and to focus on Southern Plains subjects with a Texas twist.”

The exhibition includes the Caddo, Comanche and Kiowa tribes (Texas tribes that Catlin encountered in the Arkansas Territory) and the Cheyenne, Mandan, Ojibwa, Pawnee and Sioux Plains Indian tribes.

Take Two: George Catlin Revisits the West opens Thursday, September 25, 2014.

Meet & Greet: Leslie

Today’s post concludes our summer blog series, Meet & Greet. We’ve enjoyed sharing our staff with you and hope you’ve learned a little more about the Sid Richardson Museum. For our final introduction, let me tell you a little bit about myself, Leslie Thompson, Adult Audiences Manager.Leslie Collage

Describe your job.

I work within the education department, primarily with our Adult Programs. I design and implement dynamic programs for adults to provide engaging experiences aimed at enhancing visitors’ relationships with the artwork. In addition, I organize continuing education for our docents and manage special events hosted at the museum.

What does any average day entail?

Every day is different, but usually I am planning or preparing for an upcoming program, which often involves conducting research about a certain topic related to our collection, gathering together all necessary materials, and coordinating with staff. And I’m always looking for a fun fact or behind-the-scenes detail to reveal to our audiences through social media.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is having the opportunity to not only learn about a variety of subjects, but to be able to share this wealth of knowledge with the public and engage with fellow art enthusiasts.  I’m also fortunate to work with such an amazing staff who are supportive and open to new ideas.

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

As I read more about the artists represented in our collection, I’m continuously amazed at how adventurous these men were, especially during a period when transportation was not the easiest. They traveled everywhere! As a teenager, Russell moved from the established city of St. Louis to the uncharted Montana Territory. Remington traveled from New York to Cuba, and William Robertson Leigh journeyed to Africa – twice! Several of them toured Europe, as was the custom of artists at the turn of the century – both Leigh and Charles Schreyvogel studied in Munich and Edwin Willard Deming in Paris. And of course, each of these men traveled to the American West, as best captured in their artwork.

Favorite work in the collection? Why?

I love watercolors, which is why I’m naturally drawn to Russell’s The Scout. Russell thought he was a better watercolorist than a painter of oils, which is probably why a third of his artistic output was in watercolors. Watercolor is a difficult medium, so I admire anyone who can produce a good watercolor painting. Because Russell was self-taught, he practiced several techniques that most trained watercolorists wouldn’t do. For example, Russell layered the watercolors to create a thicker buildup of paint, as if they were oil paints. But above all else, I like the simplicity and elegance of this painting.

Charles M. Russell | The Scout | 1907 | Watercolor, pencil & gouache on paper | 16 3/4 x 11 5/8 inches

Charles M. Russell | The Scout | 1907 | Watercolor, pencil & gouache on paper | 16 3/4 x 11 5/8 inches

Happy Birthday, Edwin!

Today marks Edwin Willard Deming’s birthday, another artist in our collection. Born on a family homestead in Ohio in 1860, E.W. Deming grew up on the prairie lands of Illinois. As a child, Deming experienced his first encounter with Native Americans when the Winnebagoes would travel down from Wisconsin to hunt and trap nearby.

Edwin W. Deming | Indians (Indian Attack) | c. 1910 | Oil on canvas | 20 1/8 x 28 1/8 inches

Edwin W. Deming | Indians (Indian Attack) | c. 1910 | Oil on canvas | 20 1/8 x 28 1/8 inches

In the late 1880s, Deming went to live with the Crow Indians near Little Bighorn River, the site of the infamous defeat of General Custer. The artist made many studies of the Crows and their homes and land. Thus began the next thirty years of traveling among Indian groups all over North America, becoming friends with the likes of Gall, a Sioux leader, and Rain in the Face, Flying By, Iron Tail, Big Moon, the Cheyenne chief, and others. Deming even received Sitting Bull’s permission to photograph one of the dances of the Ghost Dance ceremony.

The artist was much beloved throughout his career and made friends with many, including former president Theodore Roosevelt, who was a collector of Deming’s work. His paintings were placed in many well-known public institutions during his lifetime, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum, the Smithsonian Institute, and the American Museum of Natural History, which had commissioned the artist to complete a series of murals for their Plains Indian Room. Often known as “the painter of the Indian soul,” Deming painted in an Impressionist manner and imbued his canvases with a diffused softness. The artist also worked in sculptures and produced several bronzes of wildlife and Native Americans. In 1934, Deming became the first living artist to have a painting reproduced on a U.S. postage stamp.

Edwin Willard Deming, Moose Hunt, Oil on Canvasboard, 1924, 33.875" x 60.25", Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955, Courtesy Gilcrease Museum

Edwin Willard Deming, Moose Hunt, Oil on Canvasboard, 1924, 33.875″ x 60.25″, Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955, Courtesy Gilcrease Museum

Deming is the focus of a current exhibition on display at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Art with Purpose features 30 works from the museum’s collection. Illustrating the evolution of social thought and perceptions of Native Americans, Deming’s work reveals a man who painted with purpose to capture the daily life of these cultures. To learn more about the exhibition, visit the Gilcrease website.

Edwin Willard Deming, Return of the Lone Survivor, Oil on Canvasboard, 1924, 23.625" x 33.875", Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955, Courtesy Gilcrease Museum

Edwin Willard Deming, Return of the Lone Survivor, Oil on Canvasboard, 1924, 23.625″ x 33.875″, Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955, Courtesy Gilcrease Museum

Edwin Willard Deming, The War Song, Dakota, Oil on Canvas, 43.75" x 71.875", Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955, Courtesy Gilcrease Museum

Edwin Willard Deming, The War Song, Dakota, Oil on Canvas, 43.75″ x 71.875″, Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955, Courtesy Gilcrease Museum

Meet & Greet: Debi

Have you enjoyed getting better acquainted with our staff this summer? Our Meet & Greet series is nearing the end. But first, let’s catch up with Debi Carl, Visitor Services and Store Liaison.IMG_4199

Describe your job.

I am usually the first person visitors meet when they enter the Museum.  I greet visitors, distribute gallery guides, answer questions pertaining to the Museum or Mr. Richardson and can give directions to almost anything in Fort Worth/Tarrant County. I also assist store staff, if needed.

What does any average day entail?

My daily duties will vary.  Most of the time I am in my place at the entrance to the gallery.  Occasionally I will work upstairs answering the phone.  I make sure the front desk is fully stocked with gallery guides, maps, etc. and that the brochure rack is full.  I order brochures from other Museums as needed.  I am always available to assist any other staff member with any project they may have.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is getting to meet and visit with people from all over the world who come into the Museum!  I am capable of having a heavy Texas drawl on occasion.  When we have international visitors I tend to exaggerate that drawl to make them smile.  I almost always wish visitors “Happy Trails” when they leave the Museum. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard them singing that song as the door closes behind them.

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

The fact I enjoy the most concerns Mr. Sid and Amon Carter.  They both used the same art dealer from New York, Bert Newhouse, to help them acquire their artwork.  Mr. Newhouse would come to town to sell paintings and whichever man he met first got the sales pitch for the art piece.  Mr. Newhouse would then make an appointment with the other man and do the same sales pitch.   Mr. Sid & Mr. Carter got together over dinner shortly after these meetings and decided among themselves which one would purchase the artwork.

Favorite work in the collection? Why?

My favorites have changed over time.  When I first started working in the Museum I was quite drawn to Charles Russell.  Over the years I now appreciate the work of BOTH of the primary artists in our collection – Charles Russell AND Frederic Remington. However, my favorite painting at this time is Bears in the Path by William Robinson Leigh.  I love the expression on the hunter’s face as he rounds the bend to find a mama bear and her two cubs.  The horse’s expression is great too…both of his ears are straight up!  The question begs to be asked: which one will back up?  The hunter or the bears?

William R. Leigh | Bears in the Path (Surprise) | 1904 | Oil on canvas | 21 1/8 x 33 1/8 inches

William R. Leigh | Bears in the Path (Surprise) | 1904 | Oil on canvas | 21 1/8 x 33 1/8 inches

Sister Cities

This week we had a visit from a group of high school students from Nagaoka, Japan. Here at the Sid Richardson Museum, we’re excited to give these students an opportunity to learn and be creative.

As part of the Fort Worth Sister Cities program, these young scholars toured various cultural institutions around the city, and the Sid was lucky enough to be included. I had a chance to talk with a representative from Fort Worth Sister Cities International to learn more about the program.IMG_4333

What is Sister Cities?

Sister Cities is an international organization that facilitates peace and prosperity around the world. Fort Worth has 8 sister cities, located in Japan, China, Germany, Swaziland, Italy, Indonesia, Mexico and Hungary. The students coming to Sid Richardson are part of an exchange we have been participating in for many years with Nagaoka, our Japanese sister city. This exchange is called the Harashin Scholarship Program, and has been generously funded by the Hara family. The program shares the name of the Hara family’s company, Harashin Co., which is a chain of supermarkets in Japan.

What is the goal of this program?

The exchange is intended to promote education and cultural sharing between the Japanese and Fort Worth students. It is also intended for the students to reach out to the community. For example, while the students are here, they will be volunteering at Teen Times at the FW Central Library.

What other activities are planned for these students?

We are so excited! Their week in town is full of events. They will attend a rodeo, take many tours including the George Bush Presidential Library and the JFK 6th Floor Museum, TCU campus, the Log Cabin Village, Bass Hall, the stockyards, and AT&T Stadium, and will be carrying the Japanese flag onto the field for Japan-America friendship night at the Rangers Ballpark.

Why did you choose to include the Sid Richardson Museum?

We included a tour of the Sid Richardson Museum because we feel that by visiting your establishment, our scholars will become more informed about the history and culture of our wonderful city, as well as be fascinated by the lovely art that is featured.IMG_4341

Sister City CollageIMG_4380

Visit the Fort Worth Sister Cities website to learn more about the program.