Category Archives: Creative Connections

Musing at the Museum

Exciting news! In partnership with Texas State University, the Sid Richardson Museum has launched a new mobile app – Musing.musing_logo

What is Musing? Musing is a FREE iPhone application that allows museum visitors to use their phones to access fun and educational information at participating museums and galleries. Visitors can scan the artwork on display to learn more about the artist and the particular work you are viewing.

How does it work?

Step one: download the app on your iPhone.app-store

Step two: Find the current exhibition, Remington & Russell, Retold. Take a photo of the selected artwork with the app.IMG_6222

Step three: Explore the various points of interest to learn more about the artwork and artist.IMG_6223

Points of interest include fun facts about the artwork, history related to the painting, links to behind-the-scenes content related to the subject of the artwork, as well as links to artist’s biographical information.POI

The next time you visit, we encourage you to take advantage of this FREE mobile app to enhance your museum experience and dig a little deeper into the art of the American West.

(Android version coming soon!)

 

The Photographic Legacy of George Catlin’s Indian Gallery

Last week we had the good fortune to be joined by Karen Barber, Curatorial Fellow in Photography at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, where she is currently working on a project related to photography and Native America. Karen talked to us about the continuing legacy of George Catlin’s Indian Gallery in 19th and 20th-century photography.Karen Barber lecture

After amassing an Indian Gallery of more than 500 paintings, Catlin began to exhibit his collection to American audiences. He believed that Indian cultures were vanishing and would be known by future generations only through the visual record he was preserving. What he didn’t know at the time was that others would continue his mission through a new visual record: photography.

David Barry, Curley, ca. 1885-1895, Albumen silver print, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

David F. Barry, Curley, ca. 1885-1895, Albumen silver print, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

David F. Barry, Sitting Bull or Tata'nka I'Yota'nka, ca. 1886, Collodion silver chloride print, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

David F. Barry, Sitting Bull or Tata’nka I’Yota’nka, ca. 1886, Collodion silver chloride print, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Frank A. Rinehart,  Portrait of Sherman Niles in Partial Native Dress with Ornaments, 1900,  Platinum print, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Frank A. Rinehart, Portrait of Sherman Niles in Partial Native Dress with Ornaments, 1900, Platinum print, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Frank A. Rinehart, Geronimo, (Guyatle), Apache, ca. 1898, Platinum print, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas;

Frank A. Rinehart, Geronimo, (Guyatle), Apache, ca. 1898, Platinum print, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas;

The same year Catlin left the U.S. to find new prospects abroad in Europe in 1839, the birth of photography was publically announced. Six years later, David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson produced what some consider to be the first existing photograph of a Native American. Photography was quickly adopted as the favored medium by which to record American Indians. In addition to its speed, the reproductive aspect of photography appealed to many. The insured survival of an image had become a newly cherished feature, particularly after the devastating 1865 fire at the Smithsonian Institution, which destroyed their entire collection of invaluable Indian portraits by artists Charles Bird King and John Mix Stanley. By the late 19th century, photographers like Edward Curtis and Joseph Kossuth Dixon were commissioned to lead expeditions with a mission similar to Catlin’s – to study the habits, costumes, and villages of Native Americans.

Edward S. Curtis, The Old Cheyenne, 1930, Photogravure, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Edward S. Curtis, The Old Cheyenne, 1930, Photogravure, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Edward S. Curtis, The Vanishing Race-Navaho, 1907,  Photogravure, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Edward S. Curtis, The Vanishing Race-Navaho, 1907, Photogravure, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Both Curtis and Dixon have been criticized for the sentimental quality of their work. Although photography began as a simple record of reality, by the turn of the 20th century, pictorialism dominated the field. Through staged shots and photographic manipulations, photographers transformed what was once a purely documentary medium into an art form. By “creating” their own image, Curtis and Dixon’s photographs reinforced the romanticized identity of the “noble savage.” Like Remington and Russell’s paintings that helped craft the myth of the Wild West, photographers began to use their camera to construct a notion of the Indian.

Today, many American Indians have stepped behind the lens to respond to the romanticized representation of Native peoples. Photographers like Tom Jones (Ho-Chunk), Will Wilson (Diné), and Rosalie Favell (Cree Métis) examine the experiences of the American Indian and seek to portray the complex identity of their cultures. The result is a contemporary vision of Native North America.

George Catlin Landscapes

Last week the museum hosted an adult program called Sid’s Studio, in which we created landscape paintings inspired by the works of George Catlin.IMG_5962

While Catlin is known for his portraits and scenes of everyday life of American Indians, at the foundation of his paintings are his landscapes. When Catlin made his first trips up the Missouri River in 1830 and 1832, he was enraptured by the landscape. Although the Philadelphian portraitist originally intended to paint the Native Americans themselves, the artist felt compelled to depict their prairies, rivers, and hills as well.

In his Letters and Notes, Catlin wrote:

There is no more beautiful prairie country in the world, than that which is to be seen in this vicinity…The surface of the country is gracefully and slightly undulating, like the swells of the retiring ocean after a heavy storm.

Later, while traveling with an expedition of military dragoons in 1834 through the Arkansas Territory, the artist was again enchanted by the geography of his journey.

The landscape scenes of these wild and beautiful regions are, of themselves, a rich reward for the traveler who can place them in his portfolio; and being myself the only one accompanying the dragoons for scientific purposes, there will be an additional pleasure to be derived from those pursuits.

background painting 2Layered landscape

During our Sid’s Studio program, we studied and discovered the intricacies of Catlin’s landscapes. Like him, we layered our paintings, first establishing our background. After a sketching trip to the galleries for inspiration (and to let our first layer of paint dry), we returned to our canvases to complete our landscape compositions. I think our participants derived as much pleasure from these pursuits as George Catlin did during his 1830s excursions West.

Doubly Gifted: George Catlin’s Writings

Recently we had the honor of hosting a lecture by Dr. Ron Tyler for our latest Coffee & Collecting program. Dr. Tyler is the retired Director of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas. He is former Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin and Director of the Texas State Historical Association and the Center for Studies in Texas History at the University and has published a number of works in the areas of Texas, Western American, and American art and history.  Dr. Tyler is very knowledgeable on the topic of George Catlin and his writings, as the Amon Carter acquired their copy of Catlin’s publications while Tyler was the museum director.CC Ron Tyler 2

Catlin began his travels west in the 1830s to record the manners and customs of American Indians, both in visual and written form.

“Black and blue cloth and civilization are destined, not only to veil, but to obliterate the grace and beauty of Nature. Man, in the simplicity and loftiness of his nature, unrestrained and unfettered by the disguises of art, is surely the most beautiful model for the painter,—and the country from which he hails is unquestionably the best study or school of the arts in the world: such I am sure, from the models I have seen, is the wilderness of North America. And the history and customs of such a people, preserved by pictorial illustrations, are themes worthy the life-time of one man, and nothing short of the loss of my life, shall prevent me from visiting their country, and of becoming their historian.”

-George Catlin, Letters and Notes…, 1841

letters and notesCatlin LettersIMG_4943

In addition to producing over 500 paintings, Catlin wrote letters to newspapers about his observations during his summer excursions. The artist later self-published these collected newspaper columns in 1841. The two volume book is titled Letters & Notes of the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians. It was a hit! Readers and critics alike loved the book and it sold well. Unfortunately, the publication did not earn enough to pay for the extravagant production costs.portfolios

By 1844, Catlin began work on his second book, a large folio edition of his paintings in four parts with 25 lithographic prints in each. The four parts would include: hunting and amusement scenes; portraits and costumes; religious rites and ceremonies; warfare and its cruelties. The volume provided Catlin with a means of widening the audience for his advocacy of the American Indian.

To produce the prints, or plates, the artist contracted with the best lithographers in London – William Day and Louis Haghe. The first issue of Catlin’s North American Indian Portfolio included plates that were hand-colored, while the second issue (as in the copy displayed in our exhibition) had tinted plates. Both editions are now very rare. Again, Catlin received public praise, with critics citing the publication as “an artistic and historical volume of very rare merit” (The Times, November 26, 1844).Pl30_BuffaloeHuntingCatlin Buffalo Dance Portfolio 2IMG_5286

Unfortunately, from the costs of self-publishing both books and traveling an exhibit of his paintings and artifacts throughout the U.S. and Europe, Catlin became submerged in severe debt. He sold his first collection of paintings to Philadelphia Industrialist, Joseph Harrison, and his books to British publisher and bookseller Henry G. Bohn. By 1875, Chatto & Windus acquired Bohn’s rights to Catlin’s books. Today, one can find many different versions of Catlin’s books, but none as beautifully produced as those early rare editions.

Happy Holidays

The holiday season can be filled with joy and merriment. But it can also be a time of stress and anxiety. To help assuage your concerns, we consulted some of the artwork in our galleries for advice on how to best enjoy the season’s celebrations.

Frederic Remington | The Puncher | 1895 | Oil on canvas | 24 x 20 1/8 inches

Frederic Remington | The Puncher | 1895 | Oil on canvas | 24 x 20 1/8 inches

SRM: Travel during the holidays can be a mess. Do you have any tips for transportation?

Puncher: Find a dependable vehicle. The last thing you want to worry about is your carriage falling apart, leaving you stranded far away from home. Me? I count on my trusty steed. A cowboy is only as good as his horse.

Charles M. Russell | Trouble on the Horizon [Prospectors discover an Indian Camp] | 1893 | Oil on canvas | 26 1/8 x 34 inches

Charles M. Russell | Trouble on the Horizon [Prospectors discover an Indian Camp] | 1893 | Oil on canvas | 26 1/8 x 34 inches

SRM: Do you have any advice for packing lightly for holiday travel?

Prospectors: As you can see, we enjoy a minimalist lifestyle. We can carry only what will fit on our packhorse. However, minimalism does not equate austerity. While we are prepared to pan for our fortunes, we do not neglect such creature comforts as a good pot of coffee.

“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

SRM: What does it take to host a good holiday dinner party?

Mandan Chief: One word: hospitality. I like to let my guests know that I put their needs first. That’s why I never eat with my guests, but rather sit by them, wait upon them, and prepare for after-dinner festivities.

The Sash

During last week’s blog post, I shared an exciting discovery revealed during a recent Tea & Talk program, which enlightened me about the Métis people. After some further research, I learned about another connection our collection has to this tribe.

Frederic Remington, Buffalo Runners - Big Horn Basin, 1909, Oil on canvas, 30 1/8 x 51 1/8 inches

Frederic Remington, Buffalo Runners – Big Horn Basin, 1909, Oil on canvas, 30 1/8 x 51 1/8 inches

When you view Remington’s Buffalo Runners, you’ll notice that the figures, the Métis, are wearing a sash around their waists, the trimmings of which blow in the wind from the hurried gallop of the horses. This sash is a typical Métis article of clothing. In fact, the Métis still own and use these sashes today for ceremonial purposes. Historically, the sash had many functional uses. The fringed ends could serve as emergency sewing kits when the men were out on a buffalo hunt, like in Remington’s painting. The sash could also perform as a key holder, first aid kit, washcloth, towel, and as an emergency bridle and saddle blanket.

Originally known as L’Assomption Sash, named after a town in Quebec where it was produced, the garment eventually became known as “the Métis sash.”

But the Métis were not the only ones to don the sash. From his earliest days in Montana, Charles Russell began wearing L’Assomption Sash. Apparently, he felt the belt-like item made him look slimmer. Charles once wrote:

“I have all ways worn one and like them better than a belt. I believe they keep me from having a big belly—all breeds usto ware them Mex french lots of people in Quebeck ware them I saw men in france waring them—all that I saw [were] all silk Italions ware.”

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

Russell proudly displayed the sash in many photographic portraits as well as paintings. In Russell’s 1907 canvas Utica, the artist paints himself into the composition. He can be easily identified in the background by the red Métis sash around his waist.Sid Richardson Museum

Tea & Talk Reflections

As mentioned previously, Tea & Talk is a regularly scheduled program every second Wednesday of the month at 2pm (September-May). We take a look at two selected works of art, spending about 15-20min with each while sharing our thoughts and observations. The group is intimate in size, which allows for more open dialogue. During our most recent Tea & Talk, participants spent time with Catlin’s Buffalo Chase – Bull Protecting the Calves and Remington’s Buffalo Runners – Big Horn Basin.IMG_4995IMG_4996

Frederic Remington, Buffalo Runners - Big Horn Basin, 1909, Oil on canvas, 30 1/8 x 51 1/8 inches

Frederic Remington, Buffalo Runners – Big Horn Basin, 1909, Oil on canvas, 30 1/8 x 51 1/8 inches

As an art historian and museum educator, I always find Tea & Talk to be a great resource in learning more about the artworks and learning to see our collection in new ways, both of which are sparked by comments and insights shared through our conversations. Last week’s program is a great example. While sitting in front of Remington’s Buffalo Runners – Big Horn Basin, it’s easy to get caught up in the artist’s sun-struck hues, the thick, loose application of paint, and the implied sense of movement in this dynamic scene. In fact, much of our conversation focused on these various aspects. Then someone pointed out the dark shadows on the faces of some of the men.

Are these moustaches?

Yes, the group agreed.

But wait, American Indian men are not known for having facial hair?

That’s when one of the participants referenced the Métis people.

Métis is the French term for “mixed-blood.” It’s similar to the Spanish term mestizo. The Métis tribe was a result of the encroachment of European settlement and exploration, as relationships developed between fur traders and Native American women, mostly Cree and Ojibwe. The first Métis communities appeared in the Great Lakes region, Ontario, North Dakota, and Montana near the Judith Basin. Many Métis people would come together for annual buffalo hunts, both for subsistence and for buffalo robes to sell.  Today, the Métis are found in many of these same areas and extending into many of the Canadian provinces, where the government has begun to recognize the Métis as a distinct people.

In the U.S., the word Métis is little known outside the historically Métis communities in the north. But now, thanks to Tea & Talk, the participants and I are equipped with this little nugget of knowledge.

Tall Tales

The Sid Richardson Art Museum has initiated a new adult public program this year – Tall Tales. Tall Tales is an opportunity to engage in thoughtful conversation while making connections between art and literature. For our first Tall Tales program, we’ll be discussing Waterlily by Ella Cara Deloria. Through this novel, Deloria sought to record and preserve traditional Sioux ways of life in the Dakotas prior to pioneer settlement in the Western plains. What’s fascinating about this book is that the protagonist is a woman, giving us a rare glimpse into daily camp life from the female perspective, which is much less well known than that of the warrior or medicine man. In addition, the novel was written by a woman who was both a Sioux Indian and an accomplished ethnologist.IMG_4886

Ella Cara Deloria (1888-1971) offered a perspective that originates within the American Indian community. As the daughter of a Yankton Sioux who became an Episcopal priest at the Standing Rock Reservation in the Tetons, Deloria was raised by parents who spoke both English and Dakota. She studied at Oberlin and Teacher’s College, Columbia, where she earned a Bachelor of Science. In the 1920s, Deloria began working under the tutelage of the father of modern anthropology, Franz Boas. She collected and recorded all facets of traditional Sioux life such as kinship roles, camp circle social systems, the economics of giving, myths and legends, etc. She compiled her findings into a few publications, including the fictional Waterlily. However, Deloria states that:

 “Only my characters are imaginary; the things that happen are what the many old women informants have told me as having been their own or their mother’s or other relatives’ experiences. I can claim as original only the method of fitting these events and ceremonies into the tale…[I]t reads convincingly to any who understand Dakota life…And it is purely the woman’s point of view, her problems, aspirations, ideals, etc.”

First published forty years after she completed it, Waterlily provides great insight into Sioux society and the importance of kinship. We hope you’ll join us for a thoughtful discussion on Saturday, November 8th. The first five registrants receive a free copy of the book!

Art of Slowing Down

Tea & Talk is back! From September through May, we are hosting a Tea & Talk program every second Wednesday of the month from 2-3pm. Tea & Talk is an opportunity to slow down the art viewing process. We look at two works of art, carefully, and share our observations while we process what we see.Tea & Talk 11.6.13 cropped

According to museum research, the average visitor spends 15 to 30 seconds in front of a work of art. In a recent New York Times article, James O. Pawelski, the director of education for the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, compared the art viewing process to visiting a library. “When you go to the library, you don’t walk along the shelves looking at the spines of the books and on your way out tweet to your friends, ‘I read 100 books today!’ Yet that’s essentially how many people experience a museum. They see as much of art as you see spines of books.”Tea&Talkexample

During Tea & Talk, we engage and connect with the artwork as much as we engage and connect with each other through conversation about the art. Whether you’re new to art museums or an art expert, Tea & Talk opens everyone to new discoveries.  You might even leave feeling refreshed and inspired!

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?