Se­cond to None

The Amon Carter Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art high­lights the best of the best from its per­ma­nent col­lec­tion.

Western Art Collector - - CONTENTS - By Alyssa M. Tid­well

Through­out the past five decades, the Amon Carter Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art in Fort Worth, Texas, has ac­quired one of the world’s finest col­lec­tions of Amer­i­can paint­ings, sculp­ture, photograph­y and works on pa­per. In an ex­hi­bi­tion ti­tled From Rem­ing­ton to O’ke­effe: The Carter’s Great­est Hits, the mu­seum fea­tures high­lights from its per­ma­nent col­lec­tion and sev­eral loans from pri­vate lenders, in­clud­ing land­scapes, Western themes, still lifes, rep­re­sen­ta­tions

of war, mod­ernist sculp­tures and more. The col­lec­tion fea­tures a vast range of works demon­strat­ing the mas­tery and cre­ativ­ity of Amer­i­can artists, in­clud­ing Fred­eric Rem­ing­ton, Charles M. Rus­sell, Ge­orge Bel­lows, Stu­art Davis, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Wil­liam Henry Jack­son and Ge­or­gia O’ke­effe, among many oth­ers.

“We first thought about what has de­fined this col­lec­tion and part of that was Ruth Carter Steven­son, daugh­ter of Amon Carter, and her

vi­sion of land­scape paint­ings and artists of the Stieglitz Cir­cle like O’ke­effe, Arthur Dove and Mars­den Hart­ley,” says Shirley Reece-hughes, cu­ra­tor of paint­ings and sculp­ture. The mu­seum is also cur­rently in the process of ren­o­vat­ing its up­stairs gal­leries, in­clud­ing up­dates to the floor­ing, light­ing and wall con­fig­u­ra­tions. To al­low vis­i­tors to still eas­ily view art­work, From Rem­ing­ton to O’ke­effe is dis­played in the front gal­leries on the bot­tom floor, with the ex­cep­tion of pieces by Rem­ing­ton and Rus­sell in a por­tion up­stairs not cur­rently be­ing ren­o­vated.

In­cluded in the ex­hi­bi­tion is an iconic painting by Rem­ing­ton— and one of the most im­por­tant Western paint­ings of all time, for that mat­ter—a Dash for the Tim­ber, 1889. The piece, which de­picts a group of rid­ers on horse­back rush­ing to­ward the viewer in a flurry of dust, was part of an as­sign­ment given to Rem­ing­ton by Harper’s Weekly, a mag­a­zine that hired il­lus­tra­tors to cre­ate im­ages to com­ple­ment their sto­ries, Reece-hughes ex­plains. Also seen in the ex­hi­bi­tion is Rem­ing­ton’s in­stantly rec­og­niz­able bronze The Bron­cho Buster, 1909. “We wanted to tell a story about the pro­gres­sion of Amer­i­can art,” says Reece-hughes.

The Fall of the Cow­boy, which Rem­ing­ton painted in 1895, is lay­ered with sym­bol­ism per­tain­ing to America history and cow­boy cul­ture. “That’s a really piv­otal painting be­cause, in many ways, it was sig­nal­ing the end of the fron­tier,” Reece-hughes ex­plains. “It’s this cold win­ter, this kind of eerie feel­ing of death and con­clu­sion to this era that was be­ing swept away.” In the painting, one cow­boy sits on horse­back while an­other closes a wooden gate, sym­bol­iz­ing the end of a prom­i­nent pe­riod in Amer­i­can history. “It

speaks to Rem­ing­ton as one of the mas­ters of [Amer­i­can art]. It’s like the cow­boy way of life is leav­ing…we’re mov­ing on to the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion. America at that point has been set­tled, all the fron­tiers have been con­quered. It has a very po­etic tone to it,” the cu­ra­tor says. His First Lesson came along eight years later. “This was in­spired by a visit to an Amer­i­canowned ranch in Chi­huahua, Mex­ico,” Reece­hughes re­counts. She ex­plains that Rem­ing­ton was on a sep­a­rate as­sign­ment at the time for Harper’s Weekly and kept this par­tic­u­lar scene in his mem­ory, fi­nally painting it about 10 years after his visit. “That Mex­ico sun­light, the streaks you get in the can­vas, you see the sun bleach­ing down on it,” Reece-hughes says of the beauty of the piece.

An­other es­teemed work comes from

Amer­i­can-ger­man painter Al­bert Bier­stadt, known for his sweep­ing land­scapes of the Amer­i­can West. In 1966, the Amon Carter Mu­seum ac­quired Sun­rise, Yosemite Val­ley, orig­i­nally painted circa 1870. “Bier­stadt painted mul­ti­ple views of Yosemite Val­ley, and this is one of the most stun­ning ones be­cause of how he cap­tured the at­mos­phere and the light peek­ing through,” says Reece-hughes. Here was a Ger­man im­mi­grant who was go­ing west, painting these land­scapes for an East­ern au­di­ence who hadn’t had a chance to see these places, she ex­plains. Bier­stadt was part of a gen­er­a­tion of artists who pro­moted the splen­dor of Yosemite and en­cour­aged peo­ple to travel in that di­rec­tion. Their works also prompted the gov­ern­ment to be­gin fo­cus­ing on land preser­va­tion. “It’s not just about beauty, it’s about what was hap­pen­ing in America at that par­tic­u­lar time,” she adds.

“The Western works were the foun­da­tion [of the mu­seum]...the only two artists Amon ever col­lected were Rus­sell and Rem­ing­ton,” says Reece-hughes. Carter died be­fore he was able to see the mu­seum through to fruition, a legacy that was car­ried on by his daugh­ter. “I think in many ways Ruth had to carry what her fa­ther en­vi­sioned for­ward.” While main­tain­ing the orig­i­nal vi­sion of Amon Carter, the mu­seum also en­deav­ors to con­tin­u­ously ad­vance the idea of the West and ex­pand the nar­ra­tive.

In ad­di­tion to the pow­er­ful Western works fea­tured within the col­lec­tion, Reece-hughes says the first gallery on the bot­tom floor fo­cuses on the early 19th cen­tury up to the Hud­son River School painters like Thomas Cole. In the se­cond gallery, the ex­hi­bi­tion moves into the mid-1800s, ex­plor­ing how Amer­i­can art ex­panded be­yond land­scape. She says, “It’s the idea of America be­ing an Eden and the beauty of the land­scape, but also look­ing at how things change as time pro­gresses.” This pro­gres­sion in art history con­tin­ues through­out the gal­leries.

Swim­ming by Thomas Eakins is an­other prom­i­nent work in the col­lec­tion. “It has this long beau­ti­ful history,” she says of the piece, which was pur­chased by Friends of Art, Fort Worth Art As­so­ci­a­tion in 1925 and then ac­quired by Amon Carter Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art in 1990.

“The guid­ing prin­ci­ple of the mu­seum is to buy the mas­ter work of the artist,” she says. Ge­orge Bel­lows’ 1917 oil The Fish­er­man de­picts a man, prob­a­bly the artist him­self, on a rocky shore­line cast­ing his line out into tem­pes­tu­ous wa­ters. “It’s a vi­tal painting, bridg­ing two tra­di­tions, ro­man­ti­cism and mod­ernism.”

An­other fo­cus of the ex­hi­bi­tion is rar­ity, Reece-hughes ex­plains. “We have this piece by Grant Wood, Par­son Weems’’s this amaz­ing painting where Grant Wood’s made an al­most the­atri­cal stage out of this story [about Ge­orge Washington],” she says. “It was also painted dur­ing a crit­i­cal time, the rise of fas­cism in it has a lot of res­o­nance to it. It’s also got a touch of hu­mor.” The piece de­picts a 6-year-old Ge­orge Washington with an adult head be­ing chas­tised for dam­ag­ing his fa­ther’s cherry tree, the long­est en­dur­ing legend about America’s first pres­i­dent.

The ex­hi­bi­tion runs through June 2.

Fred­eric Rem­ing­ton (1861-1909), A Dash for the Tim­ber, 1889, oil on can­vas, 48¼ x 84⅛”. Amon Carter Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Amon G. Carter Col­lec­tion.

Al­bert Bier­stadt (1830-1902), Sun­rise, Yosemite Val­ley, ca. 1870, oil on can­vas, 36½ x 52⅜”. Amon Carter Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art, Fort Worth, Texas. 1966.1.

Fred­eric Rem­ing­ton (1861-1909), The Bron­cho Buster, 1909, bronze, 48¼ x 84⅛”. Amon Carter Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Amon G. Carter Col­lec­tion.

Fred­eric Rem­ing­ton (1861-1909), The Old Stage-coach of the Plains, 1901, oil on can­vas, 40¼ x 27¼”. Amon Carter Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Amon G. Carter Col­lec­tion. 1961.232.

Fred­eric Rem­ing­ton (1861-1909), The Fall of the Cow­boy, 1895, oil on can­vas, 25 x 35⅛”. Amon Carter Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Amon G. Carter Col­lec­tion. 1961.230.

Clock­wise from left: Robert Sel­don Dun­can­son (1821-1872), The Caves, 1869, oil on can­vas, 36 x 30¾”. Amon Carter Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art, Fort Worth, Texas. 2012.8.

Ge­orge Bel­lows (1882-1925), The Fish­er­man, 1917, oil on can­vas, 30⅛ x 44”. Amon Carter Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art, Fort Worth, Texas.

Fred­eric Rem­ing­ton (1861-1909), His First Lesson, 1903, oil on can­vas, 27¼ x 40”. Amon Carter Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art, Fort Worth, Texas, Amon G. Carter Col­lec­tion. 1961.231.

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