Untitled (Santa Fe Landscape)

Moving to Santa Fe from Detroit in 1921, Nash quickly found himself among likeminded artists and he helped found Los Cinco Pintores (The Five Painters), the first modernist artists’ organization in New Mexico. He painted in a modern style that recalled the color and geometric abstractions of the Frenchman, Paul Cézanne. Although no works by Cézanne were available to Nash to study first hand, he learned from magazines and studied under Andrew Dasburg, an artist who absorbed European modernism while visiting Paris in the early part of the century. Nash gained national attention in the 1930s, when reporters called him an “American Cézanne.”

This work is considered one of the finest ever created by Nash. Stylistically, it serves as a bridge within the collection, connecting more traditional work with later, more modernist compositions.

Image Credits: Willard Nash, Untitled (Santa Fe Landscape), c. 1925, oil on canvas. Museum purchase with funds provided by Betty Van Denburgh and Western Art Associates in honor of its 40th Anniversary, 2007.198.

The Sun Vow

MacNeil became fascinated with American Indians after seeing a performance of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show at the Columbian Exposition World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893. The encounter encouraged trips to the West, where he visited Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. He created sketches that later served as the basis for sculptures. In 1896, MacNeil was awarded the William Rinehart Scholarship for studying in Europe. The Sun Vow, a truly American sculpture of the American West, was created while MacNeil lived in Rome.

The artist claimed The Sun Vow was a Lakota Sioux ceremony, where a young male shoots an arrow into the air toward the sun, a ritual rite of passage to display skill with bow and arrow. The path of the arrow can be imagined by following the arm and line of vision. Notice the young man’s fingers of his right hand still bent from having just released the arrow. MacNeil claimed, “Primarily, my interest was in the contrast of closing age and opening youth and that I believe is what (unconsciously) interests most people.”

A life-size version was shown at the Paris Exposition of 1900, where it was awarded a silver medal, and it won the gold medal at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, in 1901. Large casts were acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago, and the museum in Montclair, NJ, with approximately 12 casts of varying sizes now in museums around the country. The Sun Vow helped make MacNeil one of the best known artists of his day and the sculpture was one of the most familiar works of art to Americans living in the early twentieth century.

Image Credits: Hermon Atkins MacNeil, The Sun Vow, 1899, bronze. Museum purchase with funds provided by Western Art Associates in honor of its 25th Anniversary, 1992.43.

Chain of Spires along the Gila River

In 1846, Stanley traveled with the Stephen Watts Kearny expedition from Santa Fe to San Diego as part of the American forces during the war with Mexico. With this trip, Stanley became the first Anglo-American artist to work in what is today the state of Arizona. Prior to the wide-spread use of cameras, government surveys routinely employed artists to record images of the flora, fauna, and landscape they encountered.

Stanley created this painting in his Washington, D.C. studio nine years after the expedition. Using his original field sketches, Stanley painted an idealized rendition of a site located roughly forty miles southeast of Phoenix, just north of the Gila River. While all of the features – the saguaro, cholla, prickly pear, and deer – could be found in the region, their arrangement suggests an idyllic land devoid of human presence. This interest in order and beauty indicates the influence of the prominent Hudson River School of landscape painting. The Gila River is no longer bordered by grassy banks. In the 20th century, dams built along the river blocked its flow; it runs now only when flooded.

Image Credits: John Mix Stanley, Chain of Spires along the Gila River, 1855, oil on canvas. Museum purchase, 1968.20.

About The Western American Collection

Art of the American West is a significant part of the Museum's collection, offering diverse interpretations of our region by artists of the past and those working today. The Western collection, which is defined by subject matter, comes in all imaginable styles, from highly detailed images to abstract compositions. On view in the Western galleries are works by early 19th-century explorer artists, paintings by members of the early 20th-century Taos School, early Western modernism from New Mexico, and depictions of the present-day "New West." A newly defined area emphasizes the cultural history of Arizona and the greater Southwest. Represented artists include Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Remington, Ernest Blumenschein, Walter Ufer, Ernest Martin Hennings, Maynard Dixon, Georgia O'Keeffe, Ed Mell, Paul Pletka, Howard Post and Chuck Forsman.

Past Exhibitions

Gene Kloss Orme Lewis Gallery Saturday, January 11, 2014 - Sunday, April 6, 2014

The 2013 West Select Steele Gallery Sunday, November 10, 2013 - Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Riding Tall Lyon Gallery Thursday, May 23, 2013 - Sunday, September 15, 2013

The 2012 West Select Steele Gallery Sunday, November 11, 2012 - Monday, December 31, 2012

Gustave Baumann Orme Lewis Gallery Saturday, April 7, 2012 - Sunday, July 29, 2012

The West Select Steele Gallery Sunday, October 23, 2011 - Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tony Foster Orme Lewis Gallery Saturday, July 11, 2009 - Sunday, October 18, 2009

In Contemporary Rhythm Steele Gallery Sunday, March 15, 2009 - Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Century of Retablos Orme Lewis Gallery Saturday, October 6, 2007 - Sunday, February 3, 2008

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