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Release: Jan. 5, 2001

UI Museum of Art will show art that celebrates the 'Lure of the West,' Jan. 20-March 18

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- "Lure of the West: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum," an exhibition that documents our nation’s fascination with the scenery and native peoples of its western frontier as well as the development of American artistic styles and subject matter in the 19th and early 20th centuries, will be on display at the University of Iowa Museum of Art Jan. 20-March 18.

Admission to the museum and to the exhibition will be free.

"Lure of the West: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum" features 64 important paintings and sculptures from the 1820s through the 1940s by American artists fascinated with Indian and Hispanic cultures and the majestic landscapes of the western territories. The artworks, which celebrate the landscape and pay tribute to Native Americans and their cultures, served to establish American art and its subject matter as new and exciting to audiences worldwide.

With this exhibition, which comes after the popular 1996 exhibition "Plain Pictures: Images of the American Prairie," the UI Museum of Art is literally following the westward migration of settlers, from the plains and prairies of the middle west to the mountains of the West.

Howard Collinson, director of the Museum of Art, commented: "In an unprecedented tour, the Smithsonian American Art Museum has sent some of the most prized and important objects in its collection across the nation. The exhibition represents a unique opportunity for Iowans to see this vital part of America’s cultural heritage."

The opening of the exhibition will be celebrated at the museum noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 21. Throughout the afternoon UI Art and Art History faculty member Joni Kinsey and the museum’s curators will be on hand to answer questions about the exhibition; at 1 p.m. Glenn Lonsdale, guitar, and Carlis Fourot, fiddle, will perform "Songs of the American West, Originals and Longtime Favorites"; and at 2 p.m. Merry Foresta, Senior Curator, Smithsonian American Art Museum, will present a lecture on the exhibition, which will be followed by a 3 p.m. "Tribute to Will Rogers" by Lance Brown.

Other events related to the exhibition will take place at the museum during January, February and March, including musical performances, readings and a series of lectures and discussions on "Western Topics." Among these will be a lecture on "Meskwaki History" by Johnathan Buffalo and Suzanne Wanatee, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 26, followed by "Lightening Boy," a performance featuring Meskwaki singers and drummers.

"Lure of the West" encompasses more than a century of art, moving from the excitement of exploration to the establishment of a national mythology about the West. The Smithsonian Institution, founded in 1846 just as interest in western territories and peoples was expanding, played an active role in this story. The Smithsonian sent scientists and artists on various government expeditions to advise on land-use policies and gather art and artifacts into its rapidly burgeoning collections.

"First explorers and trappers, then settlers and immigrants were drawn to the lands and opportunities for a new life in the American West," said Elizabeth Broun, director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. "Artists were quick to discover new and exciting subjects in the vast wilderness, mountains and prairies, as well as in the native and Hispanic peoples who lived beyond the Mississippi River."

"Lure of the West" features many portrayals of Native Americans. The earliest work in the exhibition is a group portrait of five Pawnees by Charles Bird King, made in the artist’s Washington, D.C., studio in 1821, when the delegation of Indians traveled east to negotiate territory rights on behalf of their tribe.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is formed by 18 portraits of Native Americans and scenes of Plains Indian life by George Catlin, an artist who was featured in "Plain Pictures." In the early 1830s Catlin followed the path of explorers Lewis and Clark, traveling up the Missouri River into the Dakota Territories. These works are part of Catlin’s "Indian Gallery" of approximately 500 paintings, which he exhibited throughout the eastern United States and in the capitals of Europe, inspiring a wave of interest in the American frontier and Indian cultures.

John Mix Stanley chronicled Indian customs and people in 150 paintings that he placed on deposit at the Smithsonian in 1851, hoping they would be purchased by the U.S. government. His three works in the exhibition were among the few paintings that were not in the Smithsonian Castle Building when it went up in flames in 1865, destroying most of Stanley’s lifework.

Several works from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, made after tribal groups were largely defeated and confined to reservations, reveal the regret and nostalgia felt by many American artists.

Artists’ fascination with the West mirrored the nation’s determination to settle the American continent coast to coast. Waves of miners, settlers and soldiers pressed westward in a movement attributed to "Manifest Destiny" -- a phrase meant to imply that Europeans were destined by God to spread their religion and way of life. In this process of nation-building they transformed the lands and devastated native cultures.

Several artworks show the ambitious enterprise that inspired so many to move west. Charles Christian Nahl and August Wenderoth followed the rush to California when gold was discovered there in 1848. Unsuccessful at mining, they turned to recording the life of the "49ers" in paintings. Emanuel Leutze borrowed a famous phrase that embodied the concept of Manifest Destiny -- "Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way" -- for his 1861 study for a mural in the U.S. Capitol, showing a wagon train of settlers journeying to the Golden Gate near San Francisco.

The exhibition includes Albert Bierstadt’s 10-foot-wide masterpiece, "Among the Sierra Nevada, California" (1868), as well as two smaller landscapes of a sunrise in California and a mountain range in Alaska. Thomas Moran’s landscapes in the exhibition include views of the Upper Colorado River in Wyoming Territory, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Kanab Canyon in Utah.

Several artists in the exhibition were part of the Taos School, begun informally when East Coast artists visited the Southwest in the 1890s. Over three decades it became a thriving year-round artists’ colony in Taos, N.M. Most had studied in European academies; all had mastered the use of strong color, bright light and bold compositions. They portrayed not only Indian subjects but also the dramatic landscapes and age-old Hispanic cultures of the Southwest.

To accompany the exhibition the Smithsonian American Art Museum has published an illustrated gift book, "Lure of the West: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum." Retailing for $19.95, the book features more than 60 color illustrations and brief discussions of the individual art works in the exhibition. This book and other items relating to the history of the American West will be on sale in the Museum of Art Gift Shop, located next to the museum lobby.

"Lure of the West: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum" is one of eight exhibitions in "Treasures to Go," touring the nation through 2002. The Principal Financial Group is a proud partner in presenting these treasures to the American people.

Programs and exhibitions at the Museum of Art are supported in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Local sponsors of "Lure of the West" include Meskwaki Bingo/Casino/Hotel, the Gazette family of companies, Humanities Iowa, Tru Art Color Graphics, the Iowa Arts Council, and the Iowa City/Coralville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

M.C. Ginsberg Objects of Art, Inc. of Iowa City is the corporate sponsor for events at the UI Museum of Art during the 2000-2001 season, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

More information and full itineraries for "Treasures to Go" can be found on the SAAM web site at For information on the UI Museum of Art, visit on the World Wide Web. Information is available on other UI arts events at

The UI Museum of Art, located on North Riverside Drive in Iowa City, is open 10 a.m. to
5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday; and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Public metered parking is available in UI parking lots across from the museum on Riverside Drive and just north of the museum.

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"Lure of the West:
Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum"
List of Related Events

Sunday, January 21

12 –5 p.m. "A Celebration of the American West," opening of exhibitions: "Lure of the West," "Ansel Adams and the National Parks," "19th-Century Photographs of Native Americans from University ofIowa Libraries Special Collections"

1 p.m.: Musical Performance: "Songs of the American West, Originals and Longtime Favorites," GlennLonsdale, guitar, and Carlis Fourot, fiddle

2 p.m.: Lecture: "Lure of the West," Merry Foresta

3 p.m.: "A Tribute to Will Rogers," Lance Brown

Friday, Jan. 26

7:30 p.m. Lecture: "Meskwaki History," Johnathan Buffalo and Suzanne Wanatee, followed by "LighteningBoy," performance featuring Meskwaki singers and drummers

Thursday, February 1

3:30 p.m. Western Topics: "The California Gold Rush and the American Nation," Malcolm Rohrbough

Friday, February 2

7:30 p.m. Lecture: "The Taos Society of Artists," Brady Roberts

Thursday, February 8

3:30 p.m. Western Topics: "‘Cowboy Drag’: Gender and Sexuality in the Western Film," Corey Creekmur

Friday, February 9

7:30 p.m. Square Dancing: Will Mentor, caller

Thursday, February 15

3:30 p.m. Western Topics: "Buffalo Bill," Phillip Round

Friday, February 16

7:30 p.m. "Home to Iowa: Letters from the Western Trails," reading by Kathryn Wikert, accompanied by Kristin Fallon, harp, followed by a musical performance by Kathy Lee Ogden and Renegade

Thursday, February 22

3:30 p.m. Western Topics: "Refocusing the Gaze: An Examination of Contemporary Native American Photographers," Jennifer Vigil

Friday, February 23

3:30 p.m. Panel Discussion: "Western American and Native American Literature: 19th Century to the Present," Lori Muntz and Jane Simonsen

7:30 p.m. Reading: "Western Poetry and Prose," James Galvin

Sunday, February 25

12-5 p.m. WOW! Family Day
"A Journey West Through Stories," Judith the Storyteller
"Picture Story Theatre," Deanne Wortman, storyteller, and Tom Nothnagle, guitar
"Songs of the American West, Originals and Longtime Favorites," Glenn Lonsdale, guitar, and Carlis Fourot, fiddle
Videos, refreshments, self-guided tours and drawing for prizes

Wednesday, February 28

3:30 p.m. Western Topics: "Taming Actresses on the American Theatrical Frontier," Kim Marra

Friday, March 2

7:30 p.m. Demonstration and Lesson: "Lasso and Lariats," Dustin Smith

Saturday, March 3

2-4 p.m. Tour of UI Museum of Natural History and UI Museum of Art: "Explorations," David Brenzel (starts         at Museum of Natural History at 2 p.m.)

Sunday, March 4

2 p.m. Bette Spriestersbach Distinguished Lecture: "Air Guitar and other Western Topics," Dave Hickey,       Buchanan Auditorium, John Pappajohn Business Building

Thursday, March 8

3:30 p.m. "Places Into Paintings: Thomas Moran’s Working Methods," Joni Kinsey

Friday, March 9

7:30 p.m. Musical Performance: Dean Rathje and Gayla Drake Paul, acoustic banjo, mandolin and guitar

Friday, March 16

7:30 p.m. Musical Performance: Chris Ridge and Stampede