There are plenty of fine collections of American art in the US and worldwide, but art of the American West – classic paintings and sculptures of cowboys, settlers, American Indians and dramatic landscapes – has been regarded for a long time as a niche area. There are many special collections, however, where this under-appreciated art genre takes center stage. Journey across America and check out some of these fantastic museums – and the unique and historic cities they call home.
Helena and Great Falls, MT – Montana is home to many of the unbelievable sweeping vistas – and many of the dramatic stories – that appear on the canvases of Western art. The Montana Historical Society contains an excellent collection of the work of ‘cowboy artist’ Charles M Russell, famous for painting these iconic landscapes, as well as many historical exhibits. If that’s not enough of “Charlie” Russell for you, you can head to Great Falls to check out the C.M. Russell Museum, which houses the artist’s work. The grounds are home to Russell’s log cabin studio and his home, both of which are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Oklahoma City, OK – for a more specialized survey of art that specifically depicts the classic American West, head to Oklahoma City and check out the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. This museum is your center for celebrating cowboy culture, with plenty of educational resources and events, but it also has a fine collection of paintings and sculptures celebrating Western heritage. The grounds of the museum contain many iconic sculptures, including the immense cast of End of the Trail. Check out the collection of historical firearms and the large collection of paintings, bring the kids for fun cowboy- and rodeo-oriented activities. If you’re visiting Oklahoma in the summer, consider traveling to the town of Okemah, birthplace of Woodie Guthrie, for the annual WoodyFest folk music festival.
Ft Worth, TX – The next time you’re vacationing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, stop at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. This hidden gem has an excellent collection of works by Frederic Remington and Charles M Russell, the two biggest names in traditional Western art, as well as a unique collection of early photographs.
There’s lots more art to take in on your CitySampler award… we’ll cover some great destinations and their museums and galleries in the next post! In the meantime… giddy up and get going!