See more Western American art
Browse objects from the Western American art collection in our online collection.
The Denver Art Museum has collected and exhibited Western American art for more than sixty years. In the 1950s, led by Royal Hassrick, the museum’s first curator of Western art—and with grants from the Boettcher Foundation, the Frederick G. Bonfils Foundation, the Fred E. Gates Fund, and the Lawrence Phipps Foundation—the museum purchased a group of exceptional works by early artists in the American West including William Jacob Hays and Alfred Jacob Miller. Important acquisitions and gifts continued through the years, with the addition of significant work by Thomas Moran, Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Remington, Charles Marion Russell, and Charles Deas.
In 2001, the museum received a transformative gift of western American art from William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen that substantially broadened the museum’s holdings. Joan Carpenter Troccoli, PhD, previously director of Gilcrease Museum, joined by associate curator Ann Daley, established an Institute of Western American Art and initiated the annual publication of the scholarly journal Western Passages. After an extraordinary lead gift from Tom and Jane Petrie to partially endow the department in 2007, the institute was renamed the Petrie Institute of Western American Art, and by 2010, the Petrie Institute was fully endowed with donations from dozens of contributors. With this endowment, the institute is able to continue sponsoring symposia, speakers, and publications that further our knowledge of Western American art.
In 2005, longtime museum director Peter H. Hassrick (son of Royal Hassrick) came out of retirement to "finish some family business" by becoming curator and director of the institute. He introduced an annual symposium that remains a signature program for the institute. In 2009, Thomas Brent Smith became the director and curator of the Petrie Institute of Western American Art. Under his leadership, the department has embarked on an ambitious program of exhibitions and publications. In 2016, Jennifer R. Henneman, PhD, joined the curatorial team and began organizing exhibitions and expanding the collection through acquisition of works by women and artists of color.
Denver collector Henry Roath made a game-changing gift when he donated more than 50 western paintings and sculptures in 2013. Strong in work by the Taos Society of Artists, the Roath Collection includes paintings that are among those artists’ best. In 2014, the museum further expanded its holdings by acquiring, through gift and purchase, the collection of Dr. George C. and Catherine M. Peck, which further strengthened the museum’s holdings in Southwestern paintings. Another significant strength of the collection is due to the efforts of the Contemporary Realists group (now DAM Westerners), founded by James Wallace, which over the past twenty-five years has added more than sixty artworks to the collection by artists from our region who choose to work in a representational mode. Additionally, the department has compiled an unparalleled collection of bronzes, including what many consider to be Frederic Remington’s single greatest cast, The Cheyenne, the iconic End of the Trail by James Earl Fraser, and a group of works by nationally renowned Denver artist Alexander Phimister Proctor.
Always working diligently to expand the collection in compelling and exciting ways, the department hopes to further its reach by including works by artists of the Pacific Northwest and California, as well as collecting additional works by women and under-represented artists, which will celebrate the intrinsic diversity of the American West and tell a richer and more complete story of the region’s artistic legacy.
Since its inception, PIWAA has actively published significant contributions to the field of western American art, including award-winning exhibition catalogs. Western Passages, its signature scholarly series, includes essays on the art of the American West by curators and historians. A collection catalog, The American West in Art, provides an updated account of our growing collection with wide-ranging essays by Thomas Brent Smith, Jennifer R. Henneman, and Molly Medakovich.
West Point Points West, Vol. 1 of Western Passages (Denver Art Museum, 2002)
Sweet on the West: How Candy Built a Colorado Treasure, Vol. 2 of Western Passages (Denver Art Museum, 2003)
Redrawing Boundaries: Perspectives on Western American Art, Vol. 3 of Western Passages (Denver Art Museum, 2007)
Heart of the West: New Painting and Sculpture of the American West, Vol. 4 of Western Passages (Denver Art Museum, 2007)
Colorado: The Artist’s Muse, Vol. 5 of Western Passages (Denver Art Museum, 2008)
Peter H. Hassrick and Elizabeth J. Cunningham, In Contemporary Rhythm: The Art of Ernest L. Blumenschein (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008)
Carol Clark, Charles Deas and 1840s America, Vol. 4 of The Charles M. Russell Center Series on Art and Photography of the American West (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009)
Joan Carpenter Troccoli, ed., The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell: A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture, Vol. 6 of The Charles M. Russell Center Series on Art and Photography of the American West (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009)
Charlie Russell and Friends, Vol. 6 of Western Passages (Denver Art Museum, 2010)
Shaping the West: American Sculptors of the 19th Century, Vol. 7 of Western Passages (Denver Art Museum, 2010)
Thomas Brent Smith, ed., Elevating Western American Art: Developing an Institute in the Cultural Capital of the Rockies, Vol. 8 of Western Passages (Denver Art Museum, 2012)
Thomas Brent Smith, ed., Rocky Mountain Majesty: The Paintings of Charles Partridge Adams (Denver Art Museum, 2013)
Decades: An Expanded Context for Western American Art, 1900–1940. Vol. 9 of Western Passages (Denver Art Museum, 2014)
Thomas Brent Smith and Thayer Tolles, eds., The American West in Bronze, 1850–1925 (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013)
Thomas Brent Smith, ed., A Place in the Sun: The Southwest Paintings of Walter Ufer and E. Martin Hennings (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2016)
Mary-Dailey Desmarais and Thomas Brent Smith, eds., Once Upon a Time . . . The Western: A New Frontier in Art and Film (Denver: Denver Art Museum; Milan: Five Continents Editions, 2017)
Maggie Adler, Diana Greenwold, Jennifer R. Henneman, and Thomas Brent Smith, Homer Remington (Fort Worth: Amon Carter Museum of American Art; Denver: Denver Art Museum; Portland: Portland Museum of Art, Maine, 2020)
Thomas Brent Smith and Jennifer R. Henneman, eds. The American West in Art: Selections from the Denver Art Museum, Vol. 10 of Western Passages (Denver: Denver Art Museum; Milan: Five Continents Editions, 2020)
In 2007, former director of the institute Peter H. Hassrick initiated the Petrie Institute of Western American Art’s annual symposium. Each year, invited scholars of art and history present their thoughts and research on an array of topics related to the art of the West to enthusiastic audiences.
For more information, email email@example.com.
Current and past symposia includes:
2022: Earthworks: Land Art in the West
2021: Great Women and the Arts of the West
2020: Natural Forces: Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington
2019: Familiar Images: Icons of International Frontiers
2018: Beyond America’s Heartland: Regionalism and the Art of the American West
2017: Set in the West: Telling Tales in Art and Film
2016: Walter Ufer and E. Martin Hennings: An In-Depth Look
2015: Western Character: Expressions of Identity and Place in Portraiture
2014: Journeys West
2013: Decades: An Expanded Context for Western American Art, 1900-1940
2012: Lest We Forget California: Artists in the Golden West
2011: A Distant View: European Perspectives on Western American Art
2010: Shaping the West: American Sculptors of the 19th Century
2009: Taos Traditions: Artists in an Enchanted Land
2008: Heart of the West: New Art/New Thinking
2007: Redrawing Boundaries: Perspectives on Western American Art
Membership and Museum Friends
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The Martin Building Project
The gallery for this collection is housed inside the newly renovated Martin Building. Standing seven stories tall, the Martin Building is home to collection galleries, a conservation laboratory, interactive classroom space, a family activity center, two restaurants, and the brand new Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center. It reopened to the public on October 24, 2021.