Editor's note: The Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum provided source material to Resource Library for the following article. The text by Michael Grauer is reprinted on December 1, 2006 in Resource Library with permission of the author and the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum directly through either this phone number or web address:


Jack Sorenson: In Palo Duro's Shadow

October 21, 2006 - January 21, 2007


An Amarillo native, Sorenson grew up on his father's dude ranch and re-created frontier town on the rim of Palo Duro Canyon. A professional artist for over 25 years, Sorenson's paintings have graced the covers of Western Horseman and Cattle Feeder's Annual, become a top seller on "Leanin' Tree" greeting cards, been featured in Persimmon Hill, and used as the cover of The Log of a Cowboy, a Warner Brothers audio-literature cassette. His work is found in numerous private and public collections and is handled exclusively by Joe Wade Fine Arts in Santa Fe. Sorenson believes "great paintings should tell a story ... So much of Western art today is basically a cowboy or Indian riding through a Western landscape. We have the opportunity as artists to do so much more." This exhibition will examine Sorenson's growth as an artist, from the shadow of Palo Duro Canyon to one of the leading Western painters from the Panhandle-Plains region.

The exhibit is sponsored by the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum and Joe Wade Fine Arts representing Jack Sorenson. The exhibition catalogue was funded by Joe Wade Fine Arts of Santa Fe.  Southwest Art magazine recently published an article on the exhibition.


Introduction to the catalogue by Michael R. Grauer, Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs/Curator of Art, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum

"I didn't have the guts to become an artist, I had the ignorance,"' is how Jack Sorenson describes the start of his tremendously successful 30-year career after growing up on his father's dude ranch and re-created frontier town/Western film movie set on the rim of Palo Duro Canyon.

Palo Duro Canyon is steeped in the history of Texas and the West. Indians of the Southern Plains lived, hunted bison, and fought all through the canyons. The U. S. Army's fought two engagements with Comanches, Kiowas, and Cheyennes in summer 1874. The battles of Palo Duro Canyon were the conclusive battles of the Red River War, which ended in the confinement of Southern Plains Indians to reservations in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).

Comancheros traded here in the mid 1800s and pastores grazed their sheep in the arroyos and canadas of the region in the 1870s. Pioneer cattlemen such as Charles Goodnight brought the first herd of cattle into the region from Colorado down into the canyonlands not far from the state park's entrance. Perhaps if Western film giants John Ford and Howard Hawks had actually seen this rugged landscape they might not have set in Utah's Monument Valley or Arizona so many of their movies about Texas.

Jack Sorenson couldn't have picked a better place for an aspiring Western artist . Before he turned professional, Sorenson would tie his paint box on the back of his saddle and ride down into the Canyon every Tuesday, his day off. He would mix his colors in the lid and paint on watercolor paper. Today he says "Everything I know I learned from Palo Duro Canyon. Every element you need to know for Western art is down there. The rugged landscape, the intense colors."

Sorenson's fellow cowboy artist, Bruce Greene, opined: "It seems necessary, to me, in order to depict the contemporary cowboy with accuracy and feeling [the artist must do what] my good friend, Red Steagall, calls 'getting the dust in your nose.' For me, that dust makes the difference."

Jack Sorenson never cleaned the lid in which he mixed his colors (complete with stray horsehairs in the pigment) and he keeps his "lucky paint box" behind his easel as a reminder of what brung him to the dance. For him there could have been no better place than in the shadow of historic and awe-inspiring Palo Duro Canyon for a serious Western artist to earn his spurs. Sorenson has Palo Duro's dust in his nose.

-- Michael R. Grauer, September 19, 2006

Resource Library editor's notes:

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John Hazeltine, director of TFAO, toured west Texas art museums in April, 2013. While visiting the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum he met Michael R. Grauer, Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs/ Curator of Art at the Museum. Mr. Grauer has written several texts published in Resource Library. They are listed in TFAO's Author Study and Index. (left: Michael R. Grauer, 2013. Photo by John Hazeltine)

The Museum's website said of Mr. Grauer as of 2013:

Michael Grauer directs PPHM's curatorial staff, is the museum's Curator of Art, and oversees the weapons, sports, and cowboy and ranching artifact collections. Born in Kansas City, Kansas, he received a bachelor's degree with a double major in art history and painting from the University of Kansas and a master's degree in Art History from Southern Methodist University. After college he worked at the Smithsonian American Museum of Art in Washington, D.C. Michael didn't always plan on an art career, though. Originally, he wanted to play professional football or be a cowboy. Instead he went to art school, "because I could draw horses better than anyone and I didn't know what else to do." If Michael could live anywhere else in the world, it would be Taos, New Mexico (for the art scene) or Saskatchewan (because the name "sounds cool").

To view TFAO photo library images allowing viewers to compare photographic images with artistic interpretations, please click here for set one and here for set two.

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Resource Library.

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