Faces of the Frontier Takes Spotlight at Gilcrease

FRONTIER ART: Gilcrease Museum will feature the “Faces of the Frontier: Photographic Portraits from the American West, 1845-1924” exhibition through Jan. 2, 2011.

The touring exhibition, “Faces of the Frontier: Photographic Portraits from the American West, 1845-1924,” opened Sunday, Oct. 10 at Gilcrease Museum. Presented by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, the show explores how the American West was dramatically reconstituted during the 80 years between the Mexican War and the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924. More than 100 photographic portraits in the exhibition tell the story of those who contributed to the transformation of this region.

“The stories of the American West, both mythical and factual, are the stories that continue to fascinate our nation,” says Martin Sullivan, director of the National Portrait Gallery. “This exhibition explores the history of the West through the people who contributed to the transformation of the region’s identity.”

“Faces of the Frontier” follows four general themes during this period: land, exploration, discord and possibilities. It chronicles events such as the completion of the transcontinental railroad, ongoing conflicts between Native Americans and non-natives, the emergence of the national parks movement, the admittance of 19 new states west of the Mississippi and the philosophy of manifest destiny that drove explorers to connect the East and the West by conquering these “wild lands.”

“‘Faces of the Frontier’ complements our major exhibition, ‘America: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of a Nation,’ by continuing the narrative of the settling of the Western frontier through the people who lived it,” says Duane H. King, Ph.D., executive director of Gilcrease Museum and vice president for museum affairs for The University of Tulsa.

“In addition, our curatorial staff has put together more than 75 historic photographs from our 10,000-item archival collection for a companion exhibition, ‘History in Focus: Photographic Images from the Gilcrease Collection.’ These three exhibitions together present unprecedented imagery from our nation’s history,” King adds.
Among those included in the “Faces of the Frontier” exhibition are artist Albert Bierstadt, frontiersman Kit Carson, frontiersman and entertainer “Buffalo Bill” Cody, explorer and politician John C. Frémont, American Indian leader Geronimo, lawman and gambler “Wild” Bill Hickok, Texas founder Samuel Houston, outlaw Jesse James, author Jack London, conservationist John Muir, entertainer Annie Oakley and Mormon leader Brigham Young.

The exhibition displays vintage photographs of those who explored, fought over, developed and represented this vast territory. The objects, primarily from the Portrait Gallery’s collection, show how the popularization of photography influenced the way Easterners came to understand the West. More than any literary or artistic medium, photography made visible these new lands and the different people who inhabited them. Although at times it reinforced preconceived notions of the West, photography also gave rise to new ideas about this region-and in the process America itself.

Images by photographers of the period include Charles Milton Bell, Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, Edward Sheriff Curtis and Eadweard Muybridge.

A fully illustrated companion catalog titled “Faces of the Frontier: Photographic Portraits from the American West, 1845-1924,” by Frank H. Goodyear , with an essay by Stanford University historian Richard White, will be available in the Gilcrease Museum Store for $45. The 192-page book was published by the University of Oklahoma Press.

“Faces of the Frontier” will be on display at Gilcrease Museum through Jan. 2, 2011. This exhibition has been organized by the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. The exhibition and national tour were made possible by the Marc Pachter Exhibition Fund.

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells the history of America through the individuals who have shaped its culture. Through the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives tell the American story. The National Portrait Gallery is part of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture in Washington, D.C.

Gilcrease Museum is one of the country’s best facilities for the preservation and study of American art and history. The museum houses the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts of the American West, including an unparalleled collection of Native American art and artifacts, as well as thousands of historical documents, maps and manuscripts. Gilcrease museum’s charm, beauty and art collections draw thousands of visitors from around the world to the Osage Hills just northwest of downtown Tulsa for a glimpse into America’s past. The museum is owned by the City of Tulsa, which has partnered with The University of Tulsa to steward the museum.

Gilcrease Museum hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to exceptional temporary and permanent exhibitions, the museum features themed gardens that have been developed on 23 of the museum’s 460 acres. The Restaurant at Gilcrease serves lunch Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3p.m., and offers a Sunday brunch.

Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors 62 and older, $6 for active duty members of the U.S. military and $5 for college students with valid ID. Children 18 and under are free. TU Tuesday is the first Tuesday of every month. Contact 918-596-2700 for more information.

Updated 10-25-2010

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