Behind the Scenes at the DAM

DAM Curator Gives Media a Sneak Peek of The American West in Bronze

On May 8, Thomas Smith, director of the Petrie Institute of Western American Art at the DAM, gave some of Denver's media a tour of The American West in Bronze, 1850-1925. The exhibition opens to members on May 11 and to the public on May 12.

Divided into sections that focus on American Indians, cowboys, wildlife, and pioneers, The American West in Bronze showcases sculptures by Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell, Hermon Atkins MacNeil, Paul Manship, Alexander Phimister Proctor, and more than 20 other artists.

Smith talked about the local connection to the exhibition, including pointing out two small statuettes of monuments located downtown. “You may drive by Pioneer Monument at Colfax and Broadway nearly every day without realizing that it’s quite famous,” he said. Visitors to the exhibition will see a statuette of Pioneer Monument in front of a mural of a photo taken of downtown Denver in 1911 when the statute was dedicated.

The exhibition is co-curated by Thayer Tolles, Marica F. Vilcek Curator, American paintings and sculpture, the American wing, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where the exhibition was recently on display.

When they started on the exhibition, Smith was the expert on the West and Tolles was the expert on bronzes, noted Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM, at the event. He said that after working together, Tolles can be considered a western American art expert for the Met, and Smith is a bronze sculpture expert for the DAM.

A couple of fun facts shared at the media event: Remington’s first attempt at sculpture was The Broncho Buster, which is on display; and some of the animal sculptures were inspired from what their creators observed at zoos on the East Coast. The Bronx Zoo once had a studio on-site for artists to work in.

While this exhibition is almost all bronzes, it includes a variety of techniques and styles. Smith pointed out Manship’s Indian Hunter and His Dog, which is at the end of the “American Indian” part of the exhibition and is more stylized than the other sculptures on display with it. "This was almost art deco before we knew what art deco was," Smith said.

 You can view images from the media preview below.

Carleen Brice is a communications associate in the communications department at the Denver Art Museum. Carleen has been at the DAM since 2013 and two of her favorite exhibitions that have been on view here are Nick Cave: Sojourn and Modern Masters: 20th Century Icons from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.