Stark Museum of Art

Orange, Texas



Recent Acquisitions of Western Art by the Stark Museum of Art on Exhibit


Museums strengthen their holdings by acquiring material that may not otherwise be represented in their respective collections. Sometimes a museum acquires a painting, sculpture, or other work of art because it is recognized as a premiere example of its kind. The museum also may wish to augment or complete the representation of the history or art of a particular period, place, or person.

The decision to add to a collection necessarily involves an assessment of the quality and condition of the work being considered. Other factors such as rarity or market value can also be important, although monetary appraisals, reflecting current trends, tend to fluctuate with the times and cannot be relied upon when determining the intrinsic worth of a particular item

The Stark Museum of Art has made a significant number of additions to its permanent collection (additions are called accessions by museum insiders) during the last two years (1998-1999). The reasons for acquiring these works were not the same, in every instance, but all of them have served to enhance specific aspects of the museum's continuing exhibitions program. (left: Walter Ufer (1876-1936), Two Riders, oil on canvas, 40 x 50 inches, Stark Museum of Art, 31.5/8)

Notable among recent acquisitions is an oil painting entitled Woman in a Large Hat, by Ernest Martin Hennings, one of the founding members of the Taos Society of Artists. A striking likeness of the artist's wife, Helen, painted on a canvas measuring 44 x 45 inches, it is currently on view at the museum for the first time in a special Hennings exhibition in Gallery Five.

Exhibited in Gallery One is a recently acquired painting by Walter Ufer, another of the artists who made the Taos art colony in northern New Mexico famous. Entitled Two Riders, this vividly colored oil, on a canvas measuring 40 x 50 inches, was purchased from a private estate earlier this year.

An unusually fine example of a turn-of-the-century Acoma pottery olla or water jar was acquired by the Stark Museum in 1999, again from a private collector. Decorated with the hand-painted figures of elk surrounded by geometric and foliate designs, it was first placed on public view in September of this year. Of particular interest is the fact that this piece once belonged to artist Maynard Dixon, who is himself represented in the Stark collection by two paintings, both purchased within the last two years. It is thought that Dixon probably obtained the Acoma jar during one of his trips to New Mexico between 1910 and 1920. Dixon's large West Texas landscape, Cloud Drift and Prairie, is currently exhibited in Gallery Five. (left: Maynard Dixon (1875-1946), Cloud Drift on Prarie, 1940, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches, Stark Museum of Art, 31.235/1; right: Acoma Pueblo, Jar, clay, 10 1/2 x 12 inches, Stark Museum of Art, 42.900/5)

Also on view in Gallery Five is another recently acquired modern work, a floral "portrait" entitled Not from My Garden, by Georgia O'Keeffe. Both Dixon and O'Keeffe, each married to famous photographers, visited the American Southwest at about the same time. O'Keeffe eventually established a permanent home and studio near Santa Fe, New Mexico, while Dixon moved on to California. Both experimented with various styles and techniques in describing the elemental landscape of the West. (left: Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986), Not from My Garden, oil on canvas, 15 1/8 x 12 inches, Stark Museum of Art, 31.222/2)

A number of American artists in the 20th century carried forward the story-telling traditions of the previous century. Several of them became writers, including Will James, cowboy author and illustrator of Western life, who is chiefly remembered today for his books about horses and horse wrangling. James illustrated his books with lively pen-and-ink drawings, but he produced only a relative few paintings, such as All's Well or Pensioned. Painted in 1930, this recent addition to the Stark collection, now on view in Gallery Two, depicts two riderless horses taking their ease in the shade beneath a spreading pine tree. (right: Will James (1892-1942), All's Well or Pensioned, 1930, oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches, Stark Museum of Art, 31.238/1)

A successful illustrator on the East Coast before moving to New Mexico, Robert Lougheed (1910-1982) was a distinguished member of the Cowboy Artists of America as well as a founding member of the National Academy of Western Artists. He received numerous awards over the years, including two for book illustration from the Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City. His painting entitled Noontime, another recent Stark purchase, is an outstanding example of his distinctive narrative style. It is the first work by Lougheed to find a place in the museum's collection and may be seen with other Southwestern paintings in Gallery One. (left: Robert Lougheed (1910-1982), Noontime, oil on masonite, 20 1/2 x 26 1/4 inches, Stark Museum of Art, 31.242/1)

One of the museum's latest acquisitions, a painting entitled Santa Clara Fiesta Dance by Bettina Steinke Blair, is another "first" for the Stark collection by this artist. A member of the American Society of Illustrators and also of the National Academy of Western Art, Steinke maintained a studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico for many years. According to a Fox News obituary, "Steinke began her career in 1938 when NBC commissioned her to do a series of portraits of conductor Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Orchestra. She focused on genre painting and portraits. Her work included portraits of President Dwight Eisenhower, Lady Bird Johnson, Jack Dempsey, James Cagney and Igor Stravinsky. Steinke moved to Santa Fe in the 1960s and became a mentor for young artists such as sculptor Malcolm Alexander." She is widely represented today in both public and private collections. Although acclaimed for her portraiture, the artist in this instance depicted a contemporary Pueblo ceremony. The painting was acquired from a private collector, who originally commissioned the work. (left: Bettina Steinke (1913-1999), Santa Clara Fiesta Dance, oil on canvas, 18 x 24 inches, Stark Museum of Art, 31.241/1)

A nationally known portrait painter and lithographer, Charles Banks Wilson is best known for his depictions of contemporary Indian life. Again a "first" for the Stark Museum is the recent purchase of his Pow Wow Afternoon, which portrays behind-the-scene activities at a Quapaw campground in northeastern Oklahoma. Wilson illustrated many books, several of them award-winners. He is also represented by a celebrated series of historical murals at the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City. (right: Charles Banks Wilson, Pow Wow Afternoon, oil on canvas, 28 x 34 inches, Stark Museum of Art, 31.240/1)

Allan Houser (1914-1994) is recognized today as one of the nation's foremost American Indian sculptors and a major figure among 20th century artists. A 1992 recipient of the National Medal of Arts, he is widely represented today by his monumental stone and bronze figures, which grace museum and state capitol grounds, public buildings, and university campuses from New Mexico to New York. The subject matter in a majority of his works reflects Houser's Chiricahua Apache background. The sculpture recently acquired by the Stark Museum of Art, now on view in Gallery One, represents three singers at a dance. Entitled Chant of the Rio Grande, it was purchased from the late artist's estate in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (left: Allan Houser, Chant of the Rio Grande, 1987, bronze, 30 x 30 x 12 inches, Stark Museum of Art, 21.32/1)

In continuing to add to its inventory of both historical and contemporary works, the Stark Museum of Art strives not only to improve its collection from an aesthetic or scholarly point of view, but also to enrich the gallery visitor's experience when these works are exhibited to the public. At the Stark Museum, original examples of the fine and decorative arts may be viewed throughout the year in regularly scheduled exhibitions, which are accessible to the public free of charge.

Read more about the Stark Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 11/22/10

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