Tales from the American West: The Rees-Jones Collection came to the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth in early September of 2015 and runs until February 21st. Trevor Rees-Jones is a Dallas collector who became interested in art when he visited the Amon Carter as a child (called the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art at the time); how fitting that his wonderful collection of art from the American West is now being exhibited to the public for the first time at the very museum that inspired him.
Rees-Jones (b. 1951) is a philanthropist and attorney who grew up in Texas and is best known as the founder and chairman of Chief Oil and Gas. His collection consists of 19th and 20th Century paintings, watercolors, sculptures and prints of the American West from well-known western artists like Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, as well as E. I. Couse, Henry Farny, Thomas Moran, and others. With landscapes, portraits, action scenes on the frontier, and portrayals of the everyday, Tales from the American West really does encapsulate a view of the great American West.
Within the exhibition is a set of nine Henry F. Farny (1847-1916) paintings and watercolor works. The French born and European trained artist started off as an illustrator for children’s books and magazines. When his family emigrated from France to the United States in 1853, settling in Pennsylvania, Farny became enthralled with the Indians at a Seneca reservation near his home. Later, in 1859, his family moved to Cincinnati, and there in the west is where Farny found the subject matter that would alter his career.
These Farny works are a display of the artist’s infatuation with the American Indian, often displaying several figures within a sprawling landscape, and a representation of his mastery of the watercolor medium. Opaque watercolor is notoriously difficult to work with, and the amount of detail that can be seen – repeating patterns, delicate vegetation and rock formation, facial features – is really astounding.
The piece “Protecting the Emigrants, 1906” by Charles Schreyvogel is on display in the exhibition. It is an action scene on the often-dangerous plains; three cowboys on horseback fire back towards the viewer as they retreat, gun smoke and dust flying in the air. Schreyvogel was a self-taught painter who grew up in New York with his poor immigrant family. In the late 1800’s he made several trips to the western territories to collect Indian artifacts and study the land. His work is often compared to the action scenes of Frederic Remington.
Rees-Jones began his collection in 2007. Since then, the collection has grown to over 23,000 items; everything from original works by revered western artists, to rare books, photography and maps make up the still growing assemblage of artifacts of Western Americana. Tales from the American West: The Rees-Jones Collection is just a peek into the mammoth high-quality collection, and even though the exhibition is a small assortment of pieces gathered through a love of accumulating works from a treasured era, the exhibition manages to capture the atmosphere and legacy of the American West. My only complaint is that there wasn’t more to see.
The strategically curated show propels the viewer into a different time period, an all-but-forgotten America. This is a great show in our own backyard, and it leaves on the 21st of next month. As always, every show at the Amon Carter is free; don’t miss this one.