Editor's note: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston provided source material to Resource Library Magazine for the following article or essay. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston directly through either this phone number or web address:


Paintings of Native America from the Stark Museum of Art


The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston has begun a long-term institutional partnership with the Stark Museum of Art, located in Orange, Texas. This exciting partnership will enable the MFAH to bring to Houston some of the key works from the Stark's extraordinary collections in a remarkable series of rotating exhibitions. Emily Ballew Neff, curator of American painting and sculpture at the MFAH, is organizing the exhibitions with David C. Hunt, director of the Stark Museum of Art. On view from November 18, 2001 to April 21, 2002 in the Audrey Jones Beck Building, is the first in this series: Paintings of Native America from the Stark Museum of Art. (left: Charles Bird King, Chenannoquot, A Menominee Chief, 1835, oil on wood, The Stark Museum of Art, Orange, Texas)

David C. Hunt said, "We are so glad to be able to bring our collection to the larger Houston audience who may not be aware of the importance of this great Texas collection."

"The collection includes many examples of early western American art by artists whose works rarely if ever appear on the market and consequently cannot enter the museum's permanent collection through acquisition," added Emily Ballew Neff. "This partnership allows our Houston audiences to get to know great artworks of this period that they otherwise could not see without traveling far from Houston."

The Stark Museum of Art, which opened to the public in 1978 as one of many projects initiated by the Nelda C. and H. J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, is considered one of the United Stares' fine collections of Western American Art. The collections of the museum reflect the Stark family's interest in the land, the wildlife, and the people of the American Wrest. H. J. Lutcher Stark, who focused on acquiring American paintings, drawings, sculptures, books, folios, and prints, formed the collection primarily in the 1940s. Initially Stark's interests focused upon the works of contemporary Southwestern painters including the Taos Society of Artists whom he encountered and befriended en route to his vacation ranch in Colorado. Over the years, his interests expanded to include the earlier works of such artists of the American West as George Catlin, Alfred Jacob Miller, John Mix Stanley, Paul Kane, Alfred Bierstadt, and Frederic Remington. His interests in wildlife and hunting led him to collect the published folios of John James Audubon and other artist-naturalists of the nineteenth century. (right: George Catlin, Pa-ris-ka-roo-pa, (from Album Unique), pencil and watercolor on fiberboard, The Stark Museum of Art, Orange, Texas)

Spurred by a fascination with the "exotic," ethnography, and an interest in recording the history of what many believed was a vanishing people, paintings of Native Americans proliferated during the nineteenth century. Some artists, like Charles Bird King, painted portraits of visiting Native Americans in their Eastern studios. Included in Paintings of Native America from the Stark Museum of Art is King's portrait Chenannoquot, A Menominee Chief, which depicts the chief wearing peace medals that feature presidents James Monroe and Andrew Jackson.

Other artists of the time, such as George Catlin, Paul Kane, and Alfred Jacob Miller, were artist-explorers who traveled from tribe to tribe to represent the Native Americans' colorful costumes and rituals, which the artists often embellished or made more dramatic in their works. An example of such a painting is Pa-ris-ka-roo-pa, by George Catlin. Audiences in America and abroad enthusiastically welcomed illustrated accounts of the experiences of these artist-explorers, as well as travelling exhibitions such as the "Indian Galleries," created by Catlin and John Mix Stanley. (left: John Mix Stanley, Gambling for the Buck, 1867, oil on canvas, The Stark Museum of Art, Orange, Texas)

Through portraits and scenes of everyday Native American life, real or imagined, these paintings portray the various ways these major American artists perceived the culture and customs of Native Americans in the nineteenth century, creating images that defined the Native American in the minds of the public.

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston 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.


This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 11/28/11

Search Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.

Copyright 2011 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.