I was in California at the Palm Springs Art Museum's branch in Palm Desert and saw an exhibition entitled, "A Grand Adventure: American Art of the West.
The exhibition included works by our own native son, Charles Russell, works by Remington, the Taos School of New Mexico, Albert Bierstadt and the list goes on.
When I think of St. Louis, I like to say that we're the last eastern city and how culturally rich we are and WE ARE, but after all we are the Gateway to the West. Our Arch is there to prove it. Of course, it is a magnificent piece in and of itself.
After all Lewis and Clark started their journey from Missouri and we have many cultural institutions which house fabulous collections of our expansion westward.
The Missouri History Museum holds the premier regional historical collection documenting St .Louis, the Mississippi and Missouri Valleys, the Louisiana Purchase Territory and the American West. The museum houses the largest collection of Native American Artifacts in the world with the exception of The Native American Museum on the mall in Washington, D.C.
The St. Louis Mercantile Library was established in 1846 by civic leaders and philanthropists wishing the citizens of frontier St. Louis to have a fine library. As a research library, the Mercantile's task is to make its collections, which have come to encompass the entire experience of Western Expansion and the cultural and social history and growth of its region and of American river, rail, and transportation experience, available to the widest number of readers worldwide.
A couple of nationally significant collections at The Mercantile are The Western Americana collections and the art collections, comprising works by Audubon, Meeker, Sylvester, Bingham, Hosmer, Russell and many other American artists.
The St. Louis Art Museum has an abundance of Western Art in the American art section including works by George Caleb Bingham, Charles Wimar, Remington and the prints and drawings collections include works by such early explorers of the West as George Catlin and Carl Bodmar. The Donald Danforth, Jr. Collection of Native American Art with plains Indian art at its core is beautifully displayed as well as American Indian art from other areas in the country.
The Art Museum has wonderful genre scenes by Bingham and is currently showing a special exhibition entitled, "Navigating the West: George Caleb Bingham and the River.” This exhibition brings together the river paintings of Bingham for the first time in decades. The exhibition presents the artist's paintings depicting the river in context of his river-related drawings and prints.
Washington University's Kemper Art Museum also includes many Western Art Highlights such as, "Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers Through the Cumberland Gap” by Bingham which is one of the most popular American paintings addressing the theme of Westward Expansion. Other famous works include Charles Wimar's "The Buffalo Hunt" and "The Abduction of Daniel Boone's Daughters by the Indians.”
A special exhibition at The Kemper is entitled, "Sam Durant: Proposal for White and Indian Dead Monument Transportations, Washington, DC." The exhibition explores the commemoration of victims of the so-called Indian Wars during the creation of the republic between the mid-seventeenth century and 1890. Sabina Eckmann, The Kemper's Director says, "While 25 of these monuments are devoted to whites, only five commemorate Native American fatalities. It is the first time that the Museum will devote an exhibition to the charged history of white Americans and Native Americans.”
Whether you think of St. Louis as an eastern or western city, we certainly have wonderful collections of Western and Native American Art from the past to the present.
Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for some thirty years on numerous arts related boards.