Toledo Museum of Art

Toledo, OH

419-255-8000 or or 800-644-6862


The American West: Out of Myth, Into Reality


Long before John Wayne and John Ford became famous for their portrayals of the rugged, Western gunslinger and cowboy, such images were captured by artists on canvas and in stone. These artists who traveled to the West in search of these narrative images were transformed themselves into travelers on a hero's journey. The American West: Out of Myth, Into Reality, which opens October 6th and runs through December 31st, 2000 at the Toledo Museum of Art, is an exhibition dedicated to the art that represents the region of the continental United States west of the Mississippi River, ranging from about 1825 to 1925. (left: Albert Bierstadt, El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, California, 1875, oil on canvas, 32 3/16 x 48 1/8 inches, The Toledo Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Roy Rike, Toledo; right: William H. D. Koerner (1878-1938), The Madonna of the Prairie, 1922, oil on canvas, 36 x 30 inches, Collection of the Buffalo Hill Historical Center, Cody Wyoming)

Experience the works of Charles Deas, Frederic Remington, and many others whose art remains the best depictions of the American West. Images of buffalo, the vast Western landscape, Native Americans, cowboys, gunslingers, prairie women, wagon trains, and the struggle to survive against the harsh, uncivilized West reveal the archetype of the folklore of the American West. Recently, the genre of western art has come under critical scrutiny, with historians seeking to distinguish myth from reality, artifice from objectivity. This exhibition is an attempt to organize the images, both painting and sculpture, that depict the American frontier as it was immortalized by artists in three mythic themes: progress, Eden, and masculinity. (left: Frederic Remington, Indians Simulating Buffalo, 1908, oil on canvas, 26 5/16 x 40 1/8 inches, The Toledo Museum of Art, Gift of Florence Scott Libbey; right: Thomas P. Otter (1832-1890), On the Road, 1860, oil on canvas, 22 x 45 inches, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri)

Gathered together in one exhibition, these images are a testimony to the will of the frontiersmen and women who braved the unknown to create a lasting and legendary world of adventure and spirit. This exhibition also serves as an acknowledgment to the stoic, misunderstood indigenous peoples who inhabited the land. Over time, these images have become a part of the American legend, as have many of the artists who created them. (left: Frederic Remington, Marching in the Desert, 1888, oil on canvas, 18 x 28 inches, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming)

Any art enthusiast, history buff, or lover of the western landscape won't want to miss riding into the sunset of The American West. This collection of paintings and sculptures tells the story of men and women who braved the unknown in search of something better. They listened to Horace Greeley when he said "Go West Young Man, Go West," and these artists listened, too, then captured it for our enjoyment and understanding. (left: Charles Deas, A Solitary Indian, Seated on the Edge of a Bold Precipice, 1847, oil on canvas, 36 1/4 x 26 inches, Autry Museum of Western Heritage, Los Angeles, California)

This exhibition was organized by the Mississippi Museum of Art and the Trust for Museum Exhibitions. The Ohio Arts Council helped fund the Toledo showing of this exhibition with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.

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Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 4/4/11

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