The Tyler Museum of Art
offers a panoramic view of the American experience west of the Mississippi as seen through the eyes of the people who witnessed it take shape in its next major exhibition, Scenes from the American West: The Phelan Collection.
The exhibition, organized by the TMA, opens to the public Sunday, Feb. 22 and continues through May 17, 2009 in the Museums North Gallery.
Scenes from the American West showcases more than 60 artworks from the collection of Arthur J. Phelan, a native of Chevy Chase, Maryland, who began to stoke a lifelong fascination with the American frontier upon his first travels to the Western states in the 1950s. Since acquiring his first piece of American Western art in 1967, Phelans collection has grown into one of the best-known of its kind in the United States.
Frederic Remington, Albert Bierstadt, John James Audubon and Alfred Jacob Miller are among the icons of the genre represented in the exhibition, yet a unique theme of Phelans collection is its inclusion of artists whose names are perhaps lesser-known but played no less indelible a role in capturing eyewitness accounts of the people who shaped the American frontier and the events they experienced during the nations westward expansion.
Phelan himself will be on hand to offer brief remarks on his collection during a TMA members preview and opening reception scheduled from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21 at the Museum. For reservations or to inquire about Museum membership in order to attend, call (903) 595-1001. The collector also plans to conduct a gallery tour of the exhibition at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22, which is open to the public with free admission.
Phelan regards art as his personal time machine; my way of trying to visualize the past, he said, describing his philosophy on collecting as one in tune with the zeitgeist of the 19th-century painting he cherishes one in which the highest measure of an artists proficiency often was regarded as the ability to realistically recreate a scene. There were many Wests, as weve come to know the term, so the type of imagery youll find in my collection isnt necessarily the West youve seen in the movies or read about in Zane Grey novels. Im interested in the historical record of personal observation what the artists actually saw during the expansion of the West, and how they translated those observations to the canvas.
The exhibition includes numerous well-known works such as Remingtons 1891 watercolor I Settle My Own Scores, the Audubon lithograph American Bison or Buffalo (c. 1843), Millers The Lost Greenhorn and Bierstadts Nebraska Territory (1859), along with a trio of aquatints from Swiss painter Karl Bodmers legendary 1832-34 Missouri River expedition alongside the German explorer, Prince Maximilian. Equally prominent in Scenes from the American West is Hart Merriam Schultz a.k.a. Lone Wolf, a Blackfoot tribe member widely believed to be among the first Native American artists to paint in an academic style (he received training at the Art Institute of Chicago) and achieve national success. Phelan said he considers Lone Wolfs 1921 oil painting Scouts on Watch, featured in the exhibition, to be among the most important pieces in the collection.
Works from Phelans collections (which also include an extensive catalogue of maritime art) have been exhibited in venues including the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Museum of Art, the Hunter Museum of Art in Chattanooga, Tennessee; the Durham Western Heritage Museum in Omaha; Plains Art Museum in Fargo, North Dakota; St. Johns College in Annapolis, Maryland; the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, New York; and the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.