‘Go West!’ American Frontier Art Opens At High Museum Nov. 3

Shirt, Ogala Lakota (Sioux), Northern Plains, circa 1885, tanned deer hide, glass beads, human hair, ermine, feathers, wood cloth, and dyed porcupine quills, 37 by 44 inches. Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

ATLANTA, GA. — The High Museum of Art, in collaboration with the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyo., will present a century of art from the American West, from 1830 to 1930. Featuring 250 paintings, drawings, sculpture, photographs and posters, and objects from Native American cultures, “Go West! Art of the American Frontier from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West” explores a pivotal theme in the evolution of American culture. The exhibition highlights the role of images in defining the idea of the frontier in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries, outlining a West of popular imagination.

“Go West!” will be on view at the High, the exclusive venue for the exhibition, November 3–April 13. 

The exhibition begins with some of the earliest renderings of the American West. Some artists, such as George Catlin and Alfred J. Miller, made their way on private expeditions or at their own expense to capitalize upon the rising interest in America’s wild and distant regions.

In the years following the Civil War, as more was known about the Western territories, artists traveled with government surveyors mapping the continent. Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran, for example, painted the peaks of the Rocky and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges surveyed by the Lander Expedition (Bierstadt) and the strange geological formations chronicled by the Hayden Expedition to Yellowstone (Moran) to the disbelief of audiences back East.

The exhibition features such major works as Thomas Moran’s “Golden Gate, Yellowstone National Park,” 1893, one of several depictions of America’s first National Park. Also on view will be Albert Bierstadt’s “The Last of the Buffalo,” circa 1888.

From this same period the exhibition features mammoth plate photographs by William Henry Jackson, Timothy O’Sullivan, Carleton Watkins and Eadweard Muybridge produced during the era of the great surveys from the 1860s to the 1880s — images that helped to disseminate information from the West to an eager audience back East.

Further codifying America’s romance with the West were entertainers such as Buffalo Bill Cody, who attracted millions to his traveling theatrics. The exhibition will feature paintings, posters, photographs, and film footage showing Buffalo Bill and his band of celebrity heroes, among them Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull.

A range of other objects brings the story into the Twentieth Century, including sculpture by Frederic Remington as well as his rare and beautiful late-life Impressionistic landscape studies. A section on sporting, wildlife and conservation will also include wildlife portraits by Bierstadt and Carl Rungius, sculpture and drawings by Alexander Phimister Proctor, as well as charming wax sculpture studies by Charles Russell. Also featured will be a selection of vibrant designs for poster advertisements for the Winchester Rifle Company by Philip R. Goodwin and N.C. Wyeth.

Contemporary with these accounts from the Anglo American point of view are objects crafted by Sioux, Kiowa and other Native American tribes. Dresses and war bonnets — exquisitely beaded, painted, stitched and crafted — offer a sense of the rich cultural heritage of the native peoples who struggled against the white encroachment into their lands. Sections featuring works from pre- and post-reservation eras underscore not only cultural shifts that occurred, but also the continuity and endurance of Native traditions and communities.

 “Go West!” will be accompanied by a 160-page, illustrated catalog published by the High in association with the Yale University Press.

The High Museum is at 1280 Peachtree Street, NE. For further information, 404-733-4444 or www.High.org.

Albert Bierstadt (American, born Germany, 1830–1902), “The Last of the Buffalo,” circa 1888, oil on canvas, 60¼ by 96½ inches. Buffalo Bill center of the West, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Trust Fund Purchase.

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