Scenes from the American West:

The Phelan Collection

February 22–May 17, 2009

Ransom G. Holdredge. Sioux Camp in the Rocky Mountains, c. 1880. Oil on canvas, 42 x 69." The Arthur J. Phelan Collection

Stanley Arthurs. Cowgirl, date unknown. Oil on board, 11 3/4 x 9 inches. The Arthur J. Phelan Collection

The Tyler Museum of Art offers a panoramic view of the American experience west of the Mississippi—as seen through the eyes of the people who witnessed it take shape—in its next major exhibition, Scenes from the American West: The Phelan Collection.

The exhibition, organized by the TMA, opens to the public Sunday, Feb. 22 and continues through May 17, 2009 in the Museum’s North Gallery.

Scenes from the American West showcases more than 60 artworks from the collection of Arthur J. Phelan, a native of Chevy Chase, Maryland, who began to stoke a lifelong fascination with the American frontier upon his first travels to the Western states in the 1950s. Since acquiring his first piece of American Western art in 1967, Phelan’s collection has grown into one of the best-known of its kind in the United States.

Frederic Remington, Albert Bierstadt, John James Audubon and Alfred Jacob Miller are among the icons of the genre represented in the exhibition, yet a unique theme of Phelan’s collection is its inclusion of artists whose names are perhaps lesser-known but played no less indelible a role in capturing eyewitness accounts of the people who shaped the American frontier—and the events they experienced during the nation’s westward expansion.

Phelan himself will be on hand to offer brief remarks on his collection during a TMA members’ preview and opening reception scheduled from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21 at the Museum. For reservations or to inquire about Museum membership in order to attend, call (903) 595-1001. The collector also plans to conduct a gallery tour of the exhibition at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22, which is open to the public with free admission.

Phelan regards art as his “personal time machine; my way of trying to visualize the past,” he said, describing his philosophy on collecting as one in tune with the zeitgeist of the 19th-century painting he cherishes—one in which the highest measure of an artist’s proficiency often was regarded as the ability to realistically recreate a scene. “There were many ‘Wests,’ as we’ve come to know the term, so the type of imagery you’ll find in my collection isn’t necessarily the West you’ve seen in the movies or read about in Zane Grey novels. I’m interested in the historical record of personal observation—what the artists actually saw during the expansion of the West, and how they translated those observations to the canvas.”

The exhibition includes numerous well-known works such as Remington’s 1891 watercolor I Settle My Own Scores, the Audubon lithograph American Bison or Buffalo (c. 1843), Miller’s The Lost Greenhorn and Bierstadt’s Nebraska Territory (1859), along with a trio of aquatints from Swiss painter Karl Bodmer’s legendary 1832-34 Missouri River expedition alongside the German explorer, Prince Maximilian. Equally prominent in Scenes from the American West is Hart Merriam Schultz a.k.a. “Lone Wolf,” a Blackfoot tribe member widely believed to be among the first Native American artists to paint in an academic style (he received training at the Art Institute of Chicago)—and achieve national success. Phelan said he considers Lone Wolf’s 1921 oil painting Scouts on Watch, featured in the exhibition, to be among the most important pieces in the collection.

Works from Phelan’s collections (which also include an extensive catalogue of maritime art) have been exhibited in venues including the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Museum of Art, the Hunter Museum of Art in Chattanooga, Tennessee; the Durham Western Heritage Museum in Omaha; Plains Art Museum in Fargo, North Dakota; St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland; the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, New York; and the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Lead sponsor for Scenes from the American West is Potter-Minton P.C., with additional support provided by Collectors’ Circle sponsor, The Robert M. Rogers Foundation; and Corporate Member sponsors, Austin Bank and Texas Oncology-Tyler (Drs. Donald A .Richards, William J. Hyman, Mark W. Saunders, S.J. Vukelja, Frank T. Ward, Aparna R. Kumar and Thomas F. Gregory). Media sponsor is KLTV Channel 7.

The Tyler Museum of Art, accredited by the American Association of Museums, is located at 1300 S. Mahon Ave., adjacent to the Tyler Junior College campus off East Fifth Street. The Museum’s growing Permanent Collection focuses on early to contemporary Texas art, as well as works in decorative arts, Asian art, and prints and photographs of American masters. The TMA also is set to receive a promised gift of more than 300 works from the Laura and Dan Boeckman Collection of Mexican and Latin American Folk Art. For more information, call (903) 595-1001 or visit www.tylermuseum.org.