The Mitchell Art Gallery at St. John's College
The Phelan Collection of Western Art
January 11 - February 18, 2000
The Mitchell Gallery at St. John's College is presenting an exhibition of 50 paintings, prints, drawings, and photographs from the 19th century that vividly represent the American west. Executed for the most part on site rather than in the studio, many of these images of the frontier's spectacular scenery and colorful inhabitants were more lifelike and vital than the official art of the period.
The collection provides views of the virgin wilderness, towns and settlements, and the people who shaped the frontier. A land of unimaginable distances, the west began with 1,000 miles of great plains and continued beyond the snow-capped Sierras, and was full of natural wonders captured in paintings such as "Yosemite Falls" and "Canyon of the Rio Las Animas." Towns sprung up in the most unlikely places around missions, gold strikes, or clean water, and their images were captured in "Russian Village, Kansas," "The Store Where I am Employed, Pinkney City, Colville, Washington" and "New Town on the Pacific Coast." Portraits of the explorers, missionaries, fur traders, cowboys, and settlers who inhabited the western territories appeared under titles like "Hopi Maiden" or "Ranch Hand." (left: Edmund T. Coleman, New Town on Pacific Coast, 1860-70)
Frederic Remington was the prototypical imagemaker for much of the mythology about the West. His 1891 watercolor "I Settle My Own Scores" is one of his earliest depictions of a sheriff, and captures the essence of this frontier civic figure in a familiar pose that has since occurred a thousand times in the movies. The hard-faced sheriff wears a white hat and slouches in his boots, one gun in hand, one protruding from his hostler. This image of the cool lawman after an act of justice was an illustration for a story serialized in Harper's Weekly; the title of the picture is what the lawman said after he shot the bad guy. (right: Walter Shirlaw, Buffalo Hunt, 1890-1893)
This exhibition has been organized and curated by Mr. A. J. Phelan and Mr. Thomas Dawson. Funding for this exhibition has been provided in part by Anne Arundel County, the City of Annapolis, the Cultural Arts Foundation of Anne Arundel County, the Maryland State Arts Council, Members of the Mitchell Art Gallery, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Clare Eddy and Eugene V. Thaw Fine Arts Fund, and Carleton Mitchell.
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