FORT WORTH, TX.- A major exhibition of beautiful oil paintings that depict vivid scenes of western expansion in the context of American culture and history in the decade prior to the Civil War is on view at the Amon Carter Museum through May 13, 2007. Forging an American Identity: The Art of William Ranney will present the work of one of the most important American genre artists of the first half of the 19th century, a period when America was establishing its identity as a nation. Ranneys powerful interpretations of adventures on the western prairies and plains were highly popular in their day. The works evoke concepts of an emerging national character, revealed not only through depictions of life on the frontier but also in penetrating portraits of ordinary people, lively scenes of daily life, dramatic sporting scenes, and ambitious history paintings that sought to interpret the nations past in the context of current events. The Amon Carter Museum is the only venue in the Southwest for this exhibition, the first comprehensive overview of this significant artists work in over 40 years. Following its display at the Carter, the exhibition will travel to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Visitors to the Amon Carter Museum are very familiar with William Ranneys large history painting, Marion Crossing the Pedee, said Rick Stewart, senior curator of western painting and sculpture at the Amon Carter Museum. Few people have seen many of the other large and equally beautiful paintings that this remarkable artist created; besides the Revolutionary War, his subjects included the exploits of Daniel Boone, the trials of emigrant life on the Oregon Trail, and the joys of fishing and hunting at a time when such recreational sports were coming in to their own. Although Ranney had only a brief career, he left a terrific body of work that illuminates antebellum American life.
During his lifetime, William T. Ranney (18131857) figured prominently in the developing American art scene. As a young man he served as a volunteer in the Texas war for independence, participating in the Battle of San Jacinto. After that formative experience on the evolving American frontier, he turned full time to art. He exhibited with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the American Art-Union and the National Academy of Design, garnering high marks for his paintings. Unfortunately, Ranneys career was cut short by tuberculosis, to which he succumbed at the age of 44. Ranneys accomplished and vivid works are today considered among the finest examples of American genre painting, yet the work of his contemporariessuch as George Caleb Bingham and William Sidney Mounthave received much more attention. This landmark exhibition elevates William Ranneys art to their level of achievement.
More than 50 paintings, many from private collections, will be featured in the exhibition. It will be organized according to the broad themes of Ranneys art: portraiture, genre subjects, sporting scenes, history paintings, and depictions of American frontier life. The exhibition will also include a number of the artists studies for some of the major works.
The curator for the exhibition is Dr. Sarah E. Boehme, formerly the curator of the Whitney Gallery of Western Art at the Center, now the director of the Stark Museum of Art in Orange, Texas. The exhibition is largely the result of research conducted by noted art historians Peter Hassrick, former director of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, and Linda Bantel, former director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In collaboration with Ranney Moran, the artists great-great grandson, Hassrick and Bantel have compiled a catalogue raisonné of Ranneys work that is included in the extensive and well-illustrated publication that accompanies the exhibition.
Forging an American Identity: The Art of William Ranney was organized by the Buffalo Bill Historical Center and is supported in part by generous contributions from: The Henry Luce Foundation; 1957 Charity Foundation; Mrs. J. Maxwell (Betty) Moran; Mr. Ranney Moran; The National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art; The Wyoming Arts Council, through funding from the NEA and the Wyoming State Legislature; and Wells Fargo.
About the Artist: William Ranney painted evocative scenes of everyday life, known as genre paintings, as well as historical subjects and portraiture. He was born in Middletown, Conn., in 1813, but by age 13 was living in Fayetteville, N.C. While apprenticed to a tinsmith, Ranney began to develop his interest in art. Six years later he moved to New York, where he studied painting and drawing and began his artistic career. In early 1836, Ranney volunteered in the war for Texas independence, and his experience became the wellspring for his later western scenes. He returned to the New York area in 1837 and began to submit pieces to the National Academy of Design and then to the American Art-Union. He eventually settled with his wife and two sons in West Hoboken, N.J. He outfitted his painters studio with western gear, and there he created many of his most important works. At the height of his career, Ranney contracted tuberculosis and died on November 18, 1857.