Shaping the West: American Sculptors of the Nineteenth Century

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Shaping the West: American Sculptors of the Nineteenth Century
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Shaping the West: American Sculptors of the Nineteenth Century
Ekstrand, Peg
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Denver, CO
Center for Colorado and the West
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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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Shaping the West: American Sculptors of the Nineteenth Century | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 11:20:55 AM] Home Shaping the West: American Sculptors of the Nineteenth CenturyShaping the West: American Sculptors of the Nineteenth CenturySubmitted by nwharton on 9-23-2011 08:29 AMAuthor: Alice Levi Duncan, Thayer Tolles, Peter H. Hassrick, Andrew Walker, and Sarah Boehme Publishing: Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2011. 96 pages. Photographs, illustrations, index. 9 x 12. $10.95 paperback Reviewer: Peg Ekstrand In the foreword to Shaping the West, Thomas Brent Smith, director of the Petrie Institute of Western American Art at the Denver Art Museum, asserts that during the nineteenth century this country experienced a proliferation of public commissions for sculpture and the [subsequent] mass appeal of smaller bronzes (5). He then ponders why these artists are not more widely known now. This book was assembled to rectify and explain this mystery. The books first essay, by Thayer Tolles, discusses Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the eastern establishment sculptor par excellence (12) and his legacy in western sculpture, which lies in the generation of American artists he inspired, including Denverite Elsie Ward Hering. Saint-Gaudenss definite American style, though featuring significant French influence, informed two of his studio assistantssculptors who are of local interest. The first is Frederick William MacMonnies, whose Pioneer Monument (1907) graces the intersection of Colfax and Broadway in Denver. Mounted on horseback, the monuments celebrated frontiersman, Kit Carson, is dressed authentically in clothing modeled on his own personal wardrobe, which MacMonnies examined at the Colorado Historical Society. The second burgeoning artist is Alexander Phimister Proctor, who was raised in Colorado. His two notable local works The Broncho Buster and On the War Trail ,both dedicated in Denvers Civic Center in the early 1920sstand today as grand sculptures of western equestrian subjects [that] are expertly modeled and carefully sited in the traditions of the City Beautiful Movement urban planning concepts (22). (Saint-Gaudens relied on Proctor for his exacting expertise in animal modeling, a skill Saint-Gaudens lacked.) Peter Hassrick, in the next essay, provides a detailed examination of Solon Borglums life and career. In 1897 Borglum produced his first piece for the spring Paris Salon called Lassoing Wild Horses, thereby defining his commitment to capture the West in his artwork. Borglum was a real product of the West. Born in Utah in 1868 and raised in Nebraska, he helped manage a ranch in California. Later, while studying in Paris (1897), he began to develop his lifelong artistic message reflecting the changing world of the West and the closing of the frontier. His large commission for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis consisted of four monumental groups meant to celebrate Manifest Destiny. The sculptures were extremely well received and his work became so popular that he was dubbed one of the chief poets of the soul of America (48). The next essay, by Andrew Walker, discusses Hermon Atkins MacNeil, a sculptor whose work also appeared in the 1904 exposition. His Physical Liberty, depicting a buffalo hunt with a young Indian hunter clutching EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanWhile on the Dominguez-Escalante expedition in 1776, Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco drew the first map of Colorado.


Shaping the West: American Sculptors of the Nineteenth Century | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/8/2015 11:20:55 AM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us his spear and running alongside the bison, is an allegory representing the intersection of art and ethnography that reinforced essential values of national citizenry (63). For Native Americans, the mandate [became] change or begone (63). Indeed, the 1904 St. Louis Worlds Fair showed, through its presentations, exhibitions, and artworks, that American Indians were ready to become more like every other American (67)or so the organizers thought. In Peter Hassricks second essay, the art of catching cowboys in action is examined. While Alexander Phimister Proctor created the original western action sculpture (69) for the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago, it was Frederic Remingtons bronze statuette, The Broncho Buster, blazing into view two years later, that met with astounding success. Remington believed that the cowboy was a symbol of the West if not the nation at large [and this] proposed a totally new direction for his art (76) as he moved from painting to sculpture. He thrived in this new medium. Arriving on the scene when it did, this famous piece marks the passing of the frontier in the U.S. and signals the coming of international expansionism. It also served as inspiration for some of his contemporaries, including Charles Marion Russell. And as Hasserick concludes, this work in bronze has indeed become Americas seminal sculpture of the West (83). In the final chapter, Sarah E. Boehme examines an often overlooked and mostly unavailable aspect of Charles Russells work crafted in wax, clay, and plaster. She highlights examples of the range of problems encountered and the solutions undertaken (86) in conserving fifty-six Russell sculptures at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. One wax artwork, On Neenah a self-portrait of the artist on horseback, required extensive conservation effortsfrom the tin used for the bit and spurs to the leather for the saddle and some cloth for the saddle blanket to some twine for the rope. The small sculpture, just ten inches tall, was cleaned and repaired and now presents a realistic portrait of Russell (88) riding his favorite mount. Boehme details numerous restoration efforts with these artworks. While of great interest to the museum professional and the Western art collector, this article is a bit too technical and involved for most audiences. While this book does shed much-needed light on these nineteenth-century artists, it flows more like an exhibit catalog with photographs and label copy dressed up for a coffee table book. Reviewer Info: Margaret Peg Ekstrand is the director of client services for CRL Associates, a leading government relations, public affairs, and strategic communications firm. For seventeen years, she served as an editor and public relations director for the Colorado Historical Society. Ekstrand has a masters degree in history from the University of Colorado Denver and is an affiliate instructor of Colorado history at Metropolitan State College of Denver. Add new comment