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Allen True's West

October 2 - March 28, 2010


A three-part collaborative exhibition featuring the work of Colorado artist Allen Tupper True, presented by the Denver Art Museum's Petrie Institute of Western American Art (DAM), the Denver Public Library's Western History and Genealogy Department (DPL) and the Colorado History Museum (CHM), opened at all three venues on October 2, 2009. Each venue highlights a unique aspect of the renowned artist's work, including illustrations, easel paintings and public murals that depict life in the American West during the early 20th century.

Allen True's West is organized by the DAM and runs October 2, 2009 through March 28, 2010, in Denver, and will travel to additional museums in the western region. (right: Allen True (1881-1955), A Wanderlust Memory, 1912, Oil on canvas; 36 x 36 inches. Denver Art Museum; funds from Helen Dill bequest, 1936.2)

"Allen Tupper True is regarded as one of Colorado's premier native-born artists, and his art is as complex as it is enduring. He strived to 'see and feel the beauties of Colorado,' translating that into his creations," said Peter Hassrick, Director Emeritus of the Petrie Institute of Western American Art at the Denver Art Museum. "His decades as an artist spanned illustrating and painting, and his reflections on the American West punctuate our everyday lives in the city of Denver and beyond."

True's style of illustration was built on the famed Brandywine tradition, his easel paintings embodied the exuberance and chromatic vigor of British muralist Frank Brangwyn, and his murals were decorative and elegant, with a focus on Western subjects.

Born in 1881 in Colorado Springs and raised mostly in Denver, True graduated from Manual Training High School in northeast Denver. He studied briefly at the University of Denver. True's interest in the arts in his twenties led him to the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. His rapid advances in illustration and drawing earned him admittance into renowned artist Howard Pyle's exclusive school of illustration in Wilmington, Del. It was with Pyle that True learned to "live in his art." During this training, his lifetime friendship with fellow art student N.C. Wyeth developed. For a time, the two worked together under Pyle's direction, eventually sharing a studio and creative ideas. True worked in illustration until 1915, while also focusing on easel paintings until about 1917. But the majority of his career was devoted to murals.


At the Denver Public Library

While studying under Pyle, True began to develop original painted illustrations for books and magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post, Collier's Weekly and Outing Magazine. One of the most compelling illustrations from this time was included in a series of paintings from Colorado accompanying his story, "The Mountain Pony," in the spring 1908 edition of Outing Magazine. In the work, "The Mountain Pony Has the Climbing Ability of a Goat," True aimed to "connect man, horse and wilderness together into one universal and symbiotic system," according to Hassrick in his essay entitled Allen True: The Early Years. This illustration and other True works including studio props, vintage magazines and books created between 1905 and 1915 will be on view on the 5th floor of the Denver Public Library.


At the Denver Art Museum

True began to envision his art beyond the ephemeral medium of magazines and newspapers, focusing on easel painting and fine art as early as 1912. His creations included landscapes and themes from western frontier life, and subjects from Taos and the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico. His work was exhibited and praised from Los Angeles to Cincinnati. Exemplary pieces from his easel paintings include A Wanderlust Memory, painted in 1912. This and 12 additional True easel paintings will be on view in the Denver Art Museum's Gates Western Gallery on the second level of the Hamilton Building.


At the Colorado History Museum

True's longest creative period was as a muralist. In 1909, after studying in London under noted British muralist Frank Brangwyn, True returned to Colorado where in 1911 he received his first private mural commission and, in 1912, received his first public commission. By 1915, he had established himself as a muralist. Over the next 40 years, True worked on many public and private mural commissions including murals done for the Colorado, Wyoming and Missouri state capitols. In Denver, he received commissions for murals in the Colorado National Bank building, Denver Telephone Company building and Denver's Civic Center. His work, according to a critic of the day, expressed a "freedom and happy abandon rarely seen in American art." Large-scale murals, mural studies, photographs and other details related to his mural work will be highlighted at the Colorado History Museum.



Allen True's West is presented by the Denver Art Museum in association with the Colorado History Museum and the Denver Public Library.


Video documentary

The joint endeavor of the Denver Public Library, the Denver Art Museum, and the Colorado History Museum also includes a documentary film titled Allen True's West on the artist and his life, produced by KBDI PBS, Colorado Public Television.


Additional images


(above Allen True (1881-1955), Freighters of '48, 1911, Oil on canvas; 20 x 36 inches. Denver Art Museum; gift of Ursula Benedict McPhee, 1946.21)


(above Allen True (1881-1955), The Trappers, 1911, Oil on canvas. Collection of Jan and Frederick Mayer. PTL-4461)


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and biographical information on artists cited in this article in America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

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