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Returning Home: The Francis King Collection

 

It's a celebration of one of our treasures -- the Francis King Collection of Western Art -- in an 'art imitating life' setting. A great philanthropist, Francis King grouped and displayed, by subject matter, his acquisitions. Thus, five rooms of the King home have been replicated in the gallery. Returning Home: The Francis King Collection is on display through August 3, 2002. (left: E. Martin Hennings (1886-1956), Visitors Arriving - Taos Pueblo, oil on canvas, date unknown, Gift of Francis E. King)

While the collection has grown with other donations, only those artworks actually acquired and presented to the Arts Center by Francis King are included. The theme spaces include the Cowboy Room, the Colorado Room, the Taos Room, the Old West Room and the Indian Room. To enhance the homelike environment, small vignettes accompany the paintings and sculptures.

Displayed are master works like Visitors by Fremont F. Ellis and Golden Hour in the Rockies by Charles Partridge Adams. Representing the Taos Society of Artists is Indian with Pipe by Joseph H. Sharp and Ranchos de Taos Church by Ernest L. Blumenschein. Pioneer artists such as Olaf C. Seltzer and Frank Tenney Johnson are also featured. (right: Sheldon Parsons, (1866-1943), Ristras, oil on board, date unknown, Gift of Francis E. King)

In Way Down Yonder Land by Gerard Curtis Delano is an outstanding example of works by later Colorado artists. There is a choice group of painting by several New Mexico artists of note.

William R. Leigh's Head'n for the Herd of 1914, is a painting of atmosphere and action. Leigh's interest in painting the American West developed in 1906, when he made his first trip west on the Santa Fe Railroad which gave him free passage in return for a painting. Head'n for the Herd is painted in a style that clearly shows the influence of Impressionist color and Light. The desert landscape is seen through a pastel colored haze that dissolves into pure color in the background. While the central figure dominates the composition it is the light and color which transforms the painting.

Charles Craig's Cowboy on Horse also known as Trail Boss. Craig isolates the figure in the landscape. The Trail Boss was the leader of the cattle drive, he kept the tally book, paid the hands their wages.

In Grey Horse and Vera Cruz by Ned Jacob, he builds a composition with strong, sculptural brushstrokes. He moves in very close and offers a fragment of a scene, rather than a fully complete scene. (left: Henry C. Balink (1882-1963), Taos Indian, oil on canvas, date unknown Gift of Francis E. King)

The words, "the Old West" conjure up all sorts of vivid images: an unspoiled wilderness, Indians weaving, pursuing Buffalo or on the attack, early explorers, frontier travelers, fur-trappers, the rugged cowboy heeling and dragging a calf to the branding fire or pushing a herd of longhorns. All these images are depicted in the collection.

The collection is an invaluable aesthetic and historical resource. This showing, for the Arts Center's 30th Anniversary, is a tribute to King's enthusiasm for and acknowledgment of the Center's purpose - the appreciation of the arts.

In the foyer adjacent to the King Gallery, visitors can interactively experience the old West through spontaneous theatrical productions. It's easy to step back in time through one of the collection's paintings.

Sop-n-Taters, by Harvey W. Johnson, has been reproduced -- minus its main characters -- as a lifelike backdrop. Props, to include hats, bandana and aprons, will help the volunteers transition to life on the range. Want to be Lefty or Curly, cook or cowhand?

The area is filled with western accouterments. Included are a variety of hats and three types of chaps. Necessary tools, like fence pliers and gloves, and personal items such as a frying pan, cup and bedroll, add elements of authenticity. The Western Life Discovery area is active through August 17, 2002.

 

The Francis King Collection of Western Art -- A Brief History:

Francis King was born in Pueblo, Colorado, on July 30th, 1902 to George Edward and Minerva "Minnie" King. He graduated from Centennial High School in 1920. After graduation, he began working with his father, George E King, founder of King Lumber. (right: Gray Bartlett (1885-1951), Navajo Camp, oil on canvas, 1942, Gift of Francis E. King)

After the flood of 1921, the lumber business boomed. The industries that decided to remain in Pueblo required rebuilding, as did the homes of the flood victims. To prevent such a disastrous event from recurring, the Pueblo Conservancy District was created. The District initiated a project of building a cement retaining wall to rechannel the Arkansas River and contain future flood waters. This project required the goods and services that King Lumber was in business to offer. Francis' job for four years was making sure that there was enough cement for the contractors of the conservancy project to complete their portion of the wall. The environment of a booming town, Western folklore, his father's example, and his personal experiences helped Francis to learn to appreciate the West, its history, the integrity of its inhabitants, and the rewards of hard work.

Shortly after his marriage to his first wife, Katherine Jackson, in 1930, they began collecting art. Motivated to purchase a piece of art simply to adorn the walls of their new home, they set out for Taos. Through numerous trips to galleries, advice from artists and other collectors, and literature, the novice collectors quickly became educated in Western art. They began their collection with the purchase of Thomas L. Lewis's painting Lower Hondo Valley.

Because of his interest in Western art Francis was for many years a member of the Gilcrease Museum Association in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and a member of the Cowboy Hall of Fame Association in Oklahoma City. Francis retired from King Lumber in 1965 at age 63, but remained Chairman of the Board. Mr. King was a great supporter of Pueblo, and through the years was active in many community organizations, having been president of the YMCA, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Rotary Club.

Throughout the years, Francis accumulated a visually rich and historic collection of Western art. Mr. King was first approached as a donor in 1978 by a trustee of the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center who recognized the value and significance of the collection to this region. On February 22, 1980, Francis King signed documents officially donating his collection of Western Art to the Board of Trustees of the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center.

The collection originally consisted of one hundred paintings and one bronze sculpture. At that time, it was one of the largest gifts ever given by an individual to the city and county of Pueblo, Today the collection has grown to over 250 pieces.

The collection spans over one hundred-fifty years of Western history and represents a rich diversity of styles and subject matter. It begins with artist Joseph Hitchins in 1825, and includes such greats as Gerald Cassidy, John Clymer, Gerard C. Delano, Frank Tenney Johnson, William Moyers, O. C. Seltzer, and Harvey Otis Young.

Also noteworthy are all of the Taos Society of Artists, representing the Western American art colony: Kenneth Miller Adams, Oscar E. Berninghaus, E. L. Blumenschein, E. Irving Couse, Herbert Dunton, E. Martin Hennings, Victor Higgins, Bert Geer Phillips, Joseph H. Sharp, and Walter Ufer.

Through the eyes of these artists, we gain an insight into the spirit and color of the West, vividly recreating the world of the open-range cowboy, the Indians, the buffalo, the trappers, traders and scouts, the settlers, the railroads, the rugged mountains, plains and deserts -- a romantic and picturesque record of a period unique to America.

Pueblo native, businessman, and philanthropist Francis E. King passed away June 9, 1991, at the age of 89.

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