The epic nineteenth-century landscape paintings of Yosemite and Yellowstone by Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran introduced the American public to the grandeur of the West. As the western territories opened up to development, increasing numbers of artists including Frederic Remington and Charles Russell were drawn to the promise of adventure that the American frontier provided, and by the turn-of-the-20th-century, a new genre of Western art had developed. As populations in the Southwest and Southern California grew—made possible in large part due to the completion of the railroads to Santa Fe and Los Angeles—so did the demand for art.
Artists found both financial support and refuge from the hectic urban centers of New York and Chicago in the small communities of Taos, Santa Fe, Laguna Beach, and Pasadena. Forming colonies, clubs, and associations, these groups organized exhibitions to help promote their new western subjects and styles. As the West became synonymous with the American ideals of freedom and individuality, many of these artists believed that the future of American art was in western art: “Out there in the West,” declared Kansas artist Birger Sandzen, “a painter could develop a style of his own to fit the country.”
A Grand Adventure: American Art of the West, on view now at the Palm Springs Art Museum, through Jan. 4. 2015, brings together 45 significant classic and traditional artworks from 20 private collections. The artworks span nearly one hundred years dating from the latter half of the nineteenth century through the early decades of the twentieth century. Landscape and genre paintings of the American west by Bierstadt, Moran, Russell, Remington and Henry F. Farney will be featured with artworks from the Taos Society of Artists, Santa Fe Art Colony, and California Impressionists including E.I. Couse, Walter Ufer, Edgar Payne, Carl Oscar Borg, Guy Rose, Granville Redmond, and Maynard Dixon among others.