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The Art of American Arms Makers

 

In the late 1800s, for perhaps the first time in history, the American public could enjoy fine artwork through a special printing process called lithograpy. "The Art of American Arms Makers," an exhibition that will present and interpret a special segment of such art -- the paintings and lithographs originally used as advertising art by firearms and ammunition manufacturers -- will open February 14, 2004, in Oklahoma City at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

The exhibit will introduce visitors to the rarely seen commercial work produced by such well-known artists as Frederic Remington, A.B. Frost, N.C. Wyeth, Philip R. Goodwin, W.R. Leigh and Carl Rungius. It will also explore the role of leading arms makers like Colt, Smith & Wesson, Remington, Winchester and Marlin in the democratization and dissemination of quality American art for the general public. The exhibit's rich visual content -- encompassing Western art, firearms and big-game hunting -- will by association enhance visitor appreciation of similar thematic material interpreted within the Museum's permanent galleries.

Organized by curator of history, Richard Rattenbury, in consultation with curator of art, Ed Muno, the exhibit will present approximately 70 original and lithographic works borrowed from more than 20 private, corporate and public collections, including Smith & Wesson, Marlin, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Gilcrease Museum, the Haley Memorial Library, and the Special Collections of Oklahoma State University. This extensive gathering of borrowed artworks will create an interpretive presentation never seen before. An accompanying exhibition catalog will be available for purchase.

An opening reception and exhibition preview is scheduled for Friday, February 13, 2004. The exhibit will remain open through May 16, 2004.

Also of interest is that The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum celebrated 30 years of the finest contemporary Western art exhibition and sale in the nation June 13-14, 2003. Thirty-four artists participated in the 1973 inaugural exhibition. The 2003 show displays more than 300 works of art by 90 artists. The exhibition, which is open through September 7, 2003, includes oil and watercolor paintings, colored pencil and bronze and stone sculptures.

The highly acclaimed event attracted 1,000 buyers and art aficionados from across the nation. The value of the current exhibition is $3.66 million. Although more than $2.1 million worth of art was sold at the Saturday evening event, sales continue. All unsold art is available for purchase through September 7, 2003.

Tim Cox, Bloomfield, New Mexico artist, received the coveted Prix de West Purchase Award, sponsored by Rob and Karen Braver in memory of Edward L. Gaylord. His oil painting On To Better Pastures was purchased by the Museum for its contemporary Western art gallery. He received a $5,000 cash award, 75% of the $20,000 purchase price and a medallion.

Cox, who has participated in the show for four years, paints in oils on masonite and board. His subject matter focuses on real cowboys and ranchers. Of his winning painting, Cox said, "The entire time I was working on this painting, I was thinking about the vanishing way of life of the cowboy. There is a lot of symbolism in this painting," he said.

Other award winners were announced at the Saturday evening banquet. Each received a medallion and a $3,000 cash prize. The Frederic Remington Painting Award went to William Acheff, Taos, New Mexico, for his oil Symbols And Design. Walter Matia, Dickerson, Maryland, was presented with the James Earle Fraser Sculpture Award for his bronze, Deuces Are Wild ~ Wild Turkey Pair. Capturing the prize for the Major General and Mrs. Don D. Pittman Wildlife Art Award was newcomer Dave Wade from Cokeville, Wyoming, for his oil of trumpeter swans, River's Edge.

The Great American Cowboy Award, a new award sponsored by Express Ranches, went to Bill Owen, Wickenburg, Arizona, for his oil Desert Morning. The Robert Lougheed Memorial Award, chosen by the participating artists, goes to one of their peers for exceptional display of three or more works in the show. The 2003 Lougheed Award winner is John Moyers, a 12-year veteran of the exhibition from Santa Fe, New Mexico.

During the weekend seminars and the Saturday evening reception and sale, attendees vote by secret ballot for their favorite work in the show. The recipient of the Nona Jean Hulsey Rumsey Buyer's Choice Award is sculptor Edward J. Fraughton from South Jordan, Utah, for a large bronze of a family heading west in a horse-drawn covered wagon titled Home Is Where the Heart Is. Fraughton received a medallion and $3,000 cash.

A new element was added to this year's event, an auction held during the banquet. Ten paintings and sculptures by exhibiting artists Gerald Balciar, Lowell Ellsworth Smith, Doug Hyde, Joe Anna Arnett, Luke Frazier, Joseph Bohler, John O. Encinias, Mehl Lawson, Jim Wilcox and Hollis Williford. Sales from the auction totaled more than $70,000.

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Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

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