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Legends of the West: The Foxley Collection

November 11, 2006 - February 25, 2007


In November, Joslyn Art Museum celebrates its 75th anniversary and begins a year of special exhibitions, events, and programs honoring that milestone. The inaugural show of its 75th anniversary exhibition roster is Legends of the West: The Foxley Collection, opening November 11, 2006 and continuing through February 25, 2007.

For the past 30 years, Bill Foxley -- cattleman, industry innovator, art collector, and former Omahan -- has been acquiring American Western art that spans a period of over 125 years. His collection emphasizes legendary artists who fueled the imagination with their depictions of cowboys, native peoples, and Western landscapes. Legends of the West features some of the very best works from the Foxley Collection, one of the most important of its kind in the world.

Featuring paintings and some sculpture, Legends of the West at Joslyn showcases 56 works selected from the Foxley Collection and representing the great span of artists, styles, and subject matter of the American West from around 1832 to 1940. Featured artists include such luminaries as Albert Bierstadt, Karl Bodmer, Edward Borein, Maynard Dixon, Henry Farny, Frank Tenney Johnson, William Robinson Leigh, Charles Christian Nahl, Thomas Moran, Frederic S. Remington, Charles M. Russell, and Charles Schreyvogel.

Bill Foxley built one of the largest cattle and feeding companies in the U.S., with sizable ranches and innovative feed lots in Texas, California, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, and other locations. Starting in the early 1960s with an inheritance from his father, who was also a cattleman based in Omaha, Foxley grew the company into a very successful business while at the same time discovering his love for important American Western art. Foxley's experience with art (and Joslyn Art Museum) began early.

As a high school student at Creighton Prep, located at that time on the campus of Creighton University, Foxley would "slip out" early to explore Joslyn's collections of European and American art. Later, through reading, consulting with experts, and visiting museums around the country and world, his knowledge of art expanded, his interest focused on the art of the American West, and he began to build a stellar collection. By 1983, his collection included almost 125 works. That same year, he opened the Museum of Western Art in Denver, Colorado, to the public. Located in the historic Navarre Building, he personally financed the museum until 1998 when it closed. It was the first of its kind in Denver, with educational programs and tours that encouraged an appreciation for the art of the West. Since that time, Foxley has continued quietly acquiring important works of American Western art. He is a passionate and knowledgeable collector and self-taught historian who understands the fleeting definitions and sometimes underappreciated form and content constituting what has become one of the most strident markets in the art world, the art of the American West.

A fully-illustrated exhibition catalogue and narrative essay by Joslyn director J. Brooks Joyner will be available for purchase in Joslyn's Hitchcock Museum Shop.


Exhibition Resource Area

The Cowboy Corral, a special exhibition resource area for young visitors, will be located at the end of the Legends of the West exhibition. The Cowboy Corral will offer a variety of engaging exhibition-related activities in a rustic setting. Children will enjoy mounting a saddle, handling horse and cowboy gear, reading and composing their own cowboy poetry, braiding leather, and choosing a recipe for at-home cowboy cookin'. The Cowboy Corral is open during regular Museum hours.


75th Anniversary Gala Celebration Highlights Legends of the West

Legends of the West will be the featured exhibition at the Museum's 75th anniversary gala celebration on Saturday, November 11. The evening includes buffet dining, exhibition viewing, and a spectacular entertainment event with producer, songwriter, and Grammy® Award winner David Foster. Foster will produce a concert for the evening featuring surprise performers. The 75th anniversary celebration honorary chairmen are Suzanne and Walter Scott. Chairman is Barbara Call. Fee. Dress is cocktail attire. Limited, open seating for the concert. Reservations are due Friday, November 3. To receive an invitation, call the Museum at (402) 342-3300. For more information, visit www.joslyn.org.


Members Opening Anniversary Event Includes Video Interview with Bill Foxley

A Joslyn members-only event celebrating the Museum's 75th anniversary and the opening of Legends of the West: The Foxley Collection will be held Saturday, November 18. The evening begins at 6:30 pm (doors open at 5:30 pm) in the Witherspoon Concert Hall with the airing of a video interview between Bill Foxley and Joslyn Director J. Brooks Joyner. In the interview, Foxley will share his motivations, decisions, and insights concerning the formation of his remarkable collection, selections from which make up the Legends of the West exhibition. The second half of the evening's formal presentation will also include a lecture, "Expansive Influences: American Art Museums as Community Institutions," by Neil Harris, Ph.D., Preston and Sterling Morton Professor in the Department of History at the University of Chicago. After the lecture, members will enjoy complimentary hors d'oeuvres, cash bar, and viewing the Legends of the West exhibition. All permanent collection galleries will be open. Limited, open seating for the evening's concert hall presentation. Invitations for this event will be mailed to all Joslyn members. This event is sponsored in part by Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. To join Joslyn, contact the Museum's membership department at (402) 342-3300 ext. 286.


Holiday Lights Family Festival and Cowboy Gathering

Kids and families are invited to dress in Western duds and stampede to Joslyn on Sunday, December 17, for a free afternoon of family fun in celebration of the exhibition Legends of the West: The Foxley Collection. From 1-5 pm, guests can mosey through the show with a printed gallery guide. Throughout the afternoon, cowboy music will be performed by Jim and Jeanne Martin, Joan Wells will demonstrate trick roping, and participants will learn about the multi-ethnic roots of the cowboy with Ricardo Garcia. Hands-on activities will include braiding leather, making a poke sack, and designing a brand stamp. Mouth-watering chuck wagon fare will be available for purchase in Café Durham. This cowboy gathering is part of downtown Omaha's annual Holiday Lights Family Festival. Free admission is offered at participating arts and cultural attractions and complimentary trolley service is provided between locations. Chairmen of the Joslyn event are Jodie Clement, Dianne Nelsen, and Leslie Southard of the Joslyn Art Museum Association.


Wide Open West Lecture Series

In celebration of Legends of the West, Joslyn will present a lecture series, Wide Open West, on Saturdays, February 3-24, at 2 pm. The series will offer reflections on cowboy culture featuring local and national scholars and performers. Each program includes exhibition viewing and an hors d'oeuvres reception. Fee. Exhibition admission and hors d'oeuvres reception included in the lecture ticket price. For series details and/or to purchase tickets/series passes, contact Joslyn's assistant curator of education, adult and special programs, at (402) 342-3300 ext. 262.


Guided Tours

Regular guided tours of the exhibition will be offered as follows: Saturdays at 11:30 am (Nov. 25, Dec. 2, Jan. 6, 20, Feb. 3, 17); Wednesdays at 1 pm (Dec. 6, 20, 27, Jan. 3, 17, 31, Feb. 14); and Friday at 1 pm (Dec. 15). Saturday morning tours are free. Wednesday and Friday tours are free with regular Museum admission.


Art Class & Camp

Joslyn offers an art class and an art camp celebrating Legends of the West

Go West! -- art class for ages 5-7; Saturdays, Nov. 18, Dec. 2, and Dec. 9; 10-11:30 am. Fee. Students will make cowboy art, including belts and bandannas.
Wonders of the West -- art camp for ages 6-12; Wed.-Fri., Dec. 27-29; 10 am-4 pm. Fee. Students will draw, paint, and create other objects while learning about Western and Native American culture.

Major sponsors for Legends of the West are the Bodmer Society of Joslyn Art Museum, City of Omaha, Douglas County Commissioners, Durham Foundation, and Mutual of Omaha. Sponsors are First National Bank, Marlene and Joe Ricketts, and Gail and Michael Yanney. Additional support is provided by Lenore Polack and Omaha World-Herald.


Text panels for the exhibition

The Cattleman and the Collector
This exhibition honors William Foxley, cattleman and collector, in the same breath that it pays tribute to the great artists of the American West. An astute collector who assembled one of the foremost American Western art collections of the late twentieth century, Bill Foxley was also an innovative and successful cattleman whose enterprises included vast ranchlands, grain elevators, and feeding stations that prepared millions of head of cattle for market.
The ingenuity, individualism, and determination that enabled Foxley to become a highly respected and successful cattleman were qualities that he brought to art collecting, amassing at its height a collection of some 125 works.
Legends of the West: The Foxley Collection assembles fifty-six paintings, sculptures, and works on paper drawn from his present holdings. Beginning with the exploration artist Karl Bodmer and concluding with America's premier regionalist, Thomas Hart Benton, the exhibition explores American Western art from around 1832 until the mid twentieth century through works by such important figures as Frederick Remington, Charles M. Russell, Charles Schreyvogel, Thomas Moran, Albert Bierstadt, Henry Farny, Frank Tenney Johnson, Maynard Dixon, and William Robinson Leigh.
This exhibition is not intended to be a survey of American Western art nor a replica in miniature of the remarkable collection that was represented at Foxley's Museum of Western Art in Denver between 1983 and 1997. It is best experienced as a glimpse into one collector's unbridled pleasure in discovery and acquisition, into the pursuit of a dream to build the most important collection of its kind in the world.
Russell, Remington, and Moran
When asked which three American Western artists he most admired and desired, Bill Foxley replied: Russell, Remington, and Moran -- a response that identified a triumvirate of artists who have been well represented in his collection over the years. The present exhibition contains eighteen works by Charles M. Russell, three by Frederic Remington, and four by Thomas Moran.
Charles M. Russell has become a legendary personality associated with American Western art. A native of St. Louis, Russell established a home in Montana and worked variously as a herder, trapper, and horse wrangler before devoting himself entirely to painting, sculpting, and writing after 1890. Known as the "cowboy artist," his work is grounded in popular and anecdotal images of cowboys and Indians set against the rugged landscape of Montana.
Frederic Sackrider Remington was born and lived most of his life in the East. More academic, and with a stronger European sensibility than the self-taught Russell, Remington's realistic style and action-packed images of cavalrymen and hostile Indians won wide acclaim and were popularized in newspapers, magazines, books, and prints. After 1885 he became known as well for his bronze sculptures of cowboys and horse soldiers.
Thomas Moran, the English-born landscape painter, became famous initially for his magnificent paintings and watercolors of Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon area, having accompanied both the Ferdinand Hayden geological expedition to the headwaters of the Yellowstone River in 1871 and John Wesley Powell's expedition down the Colorado River in 1873. Moran traveled throughout the United States and Europe over the next forty years, becoming America's most renowned landscape painter.
The Second Generation
Of the post Civil War artists most coveted by Bill Foxley, Remington, Russell, and Moran stand out among the rest. His collection included paintings by such major figures as Albert Bierstadt, Henry Farny, and Charles Schreyvogel and individual gems by George Caleb Bingham, Seth Eastman, and the California landscapists Thomas Hill and William Keith. However, to comprehend the breadth and diversity of the collection, one has only to look at those pieces by artists working in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Bill's vision and sense of discovery led him to acquire works by every member of the Taos Society, as well as a superb example by the Russian expatriate, Nicolai Fechin. His acquisitions of the influential second generation of American Western painters included works by the most important descendants of the style and content of Russell and Remington: artists such as Carl Oscar Borg, Edward Borein, Frank Tenney Johnson, William Robinson Leigh, Richard Lorenz, and Will James.
Probably the most striking and memorable of these second-generation artists to grace Bill's collection was the painter Maynard Dixon. Five magnificent examples of Dixon's forthright cowboy tableaus and haunting southwestern views are found here, particularly the masterpieces Pony Boy of 1920 and Open Range of 1942. Not to be overlooked in Bill's collecting panorama were such modernists as Georgia O'Keeffe and Jackson Pollock and two of America's most important regionalists, Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood, the latter two of whom are represented in this exhibition.
The Museum of Western Art 1983-1997
Certainly one of the crowning achievements in Bill Foxley's art collecting career was the fulfillment of his desire to showcase his collection in a venue that would allow public access and appreciation. This dream was realized in 1983 with the opening of his Museum of Western Art in Denver.
Housed in a five-story Victorian landmark building, The Navarre, at 1727 Tremont Place, Bill assembled 125 paintings and sculpture that were organized in three segments: Before the White Man, Westward Expansion, and The Old West is Dead. To best interpret the West of America and the frontier spirit that he believes is a "quality that is found in American people at their best," Bill included over twenty Russell paintings, ten Remingtons (among them a unique casting of Bronco Buster, as well as one of the fifteen original-edition casts of the famed bronze Coming Through the Rye), five Bierstadts, seven Morans, and nine works by Farny, to name only a few of the sixty artists that were represented.
For fifteen years, from 1983 to 1997, the Museum of Western Art offered the community and region a remarkable artistic and historical experience in a spectacular historic setting with a collection that was, with few exceptions, unparalleled.



(above: Maynard Dixon (American, 1875-1946), The Pony Boy (Blackfeet Indians, Montana), 1920, oil on canvas, Lent by W. C. Foxley, on view in the special exhibition Legends of the West: The Foxley Collection, Nov. 11, 2006 - Feb. 25, 2007, Joslyn Art Museum) 


(above: Frederic S. Remington (American, 1861-1909), Cutting Out Pony Herds, 1908, oil on canvas, Lent by W. C. Foxley, on view in the special exhibition Legends of the West: The Foxley Collection, Nov. 11, 2006 - Feb. 25, 2007, Joslyn Art Museum) 


(above: Albert Bierstadt (American, born Prussia, 1830-1902), Big Sandy River-Wind River Mountains, 1860, oil on board, Lent by W. C. Foxley, on view in the special exhibition Legends of the West: The Foxley Collection, Nov. 11, 2006 - Feb. 25, 2007, Joslyn Art Museum)

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