From the beginning of the museum's history, the Carter Foundation and the Carter family intended this to be a vibrant institution. Not only would the collection grow, but the mission would evolve as well. Instead of serving only as a Remington and Russell repository, the museum would expand to encompass works by other artists who depicted the American West. Within a few years this vision was modified to include American art as a whole, for the museum’s first director, Mitchell A. Wilder, believed that the history of American art could be interpreted as the history of artists working on successive frontiers. As a result, the holdings grew in fascinating ways. Wilder and the museum’s trustees realized at the outset that it was nearly impossible to assemble a comprehensive collection of America art at such a late date, so they opted for quality over quantity. One trustee, RenÃ© d’Harnoncourt, explained that the desired works should represent “stepping stones” in the history of American art, major pieces that not only revealed the high points of an artist’s career but that also summarized the essential elements of a broader artistic style. Acquisitions were not limited to paintings and sculptures. Watercolors, drawings, prints, photographs, and books have been added yearly and now the number of objects in our collection number well over a quarter-million works of art. The photography collection itself has grown to become one of the nation’s most important collections.
Dorothea Lange (1895–1965), Charles M. Russell's hand, gelatin silver print, ca. 1924-1926.
This is the first photograph acquired for the museum’s collection
The Amon Carter Museum designed by Philip Johnson (1906–2005), brought to the city of Fort Worth and to the state of Texas a new order of museum architecture. This building was to be a work of art to house art, a relationship that the critic Douglas Davis referred to as the union of the container and the contained. With the museum Johnson made four significant design statements: the axial relationship of the museum to the city, the great processional entrance way featuring the shellstone-clad portico, and the integration of the landscape forms with the building.
The museum was fortunate to have Philip Johnson design and oversee all three iterations of building and grounds. The original 1961 plan, the addition in 1977, and the current museum all were the “project of a lifetime” for this renowned architect.
When you visit the Amon Carter take a moment and look east to take in the view then travel through Mr. Johnson’s “goesinda” (one of Mr. Johnson’s favorite words), the center of the grand entrance to a grand collection of American art.
The Amon Carter has a renowned collection of works by Frederic Remington and Charles Russell. This was Mr. Carter’s legacy he wanted to share with the citizens of Fort Worth. He developed an interest in the work by these two artists through his friendship with Will Rogers. In 1935, shortly before Roger’s tragic death in a plane accident, Carter made his first documented art purchases: a lively Remington oil painting His First Lesson (1903), and a group of nine Russell watercolors.
Frederic Remington (1861–1909), His First Lesson, oil on canvas, 1903
Mr. Carter's collection is on view at the museum in our Remington-Russell Study Center, generously funded through a grant by the Justin Foundation. There you will see paintings, works on paper, and sculptures with fascinating insights and information on the art and the artists. You can also view all the works by these two artists in the Amon Carter’s newest online collection guide. Be sure to check out the animated video describing the lost-wax bronze casting method that both artists use to create sculptures. You can also view videos by curator Rick Stewart that discuss three important pieces from the permanent collection.
On January 21, 1961, the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art opened its doors to the public for the first time. The museum was a gift to the people of Fort Worth, a place to see and learn about great works of art. Amon G. Carter made clear that this museum would always be free and open to the public, a policy we still follow today.
Do you remember your first visit to the Amon Carter? Did any exhibits offer special meaning to you? Share your memories with us this year as we look back at our history and look forward to our future. Join the conversation here on our blog, friend us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and help us celebrate.
Alice Vanderbilt Shepard is the subject of a lovely painting by John Singer Sargent, whose birthday we remember today. Sargent was a renowned artist in great demand when he was commissioned to paint a portrait of Alice's mother, Margaret Louise Vanderbilt Shepard. Apparently Sargent was so taken by Alice that he asked to paint her, one of the few subjects of his own choosing.
By the way, the portrait of Alice's mother is just down the road at the San Antonio Museum of Art.
Recently we received thank you letters and cards from elementary students who had visited the museum on a gallery teacher-led tour. We were so enamored with these heart-felt notes and hand-drawn pictures that we wanted to share them with you. We’ll put up a couple each week, so be sure to come back soon!
Thanks to the Marcus Institute for Digital Education in the Arts (MIDEA) for posting a blog entry about our mobi tour for the special exhibition American Modern: Abbott, Evans, Bourke-White. Drop by the museum before January 3 to check out our free iPod touch device and hear the exhibition's curators discuss works in the show. You can also listen to the tour on your own smart phone or computer.
This week marked the last tour with fifth graders from the Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD. Around 1,600 students and their teachers came to the museum this fall to learn about “Artists as Explorers” and discuss how artists explored the country, different media, and a variety of subjects.
Gallery Teacher Erin Long remarked that, “We were able to have intellectual and creative conversations in the galleries with these 5th graders because teachers spent time in the classrooms and art rooms preparing students for their museum visit.” Betony Latham, gallery teacher, likened HEB ISD tours to a “laboratory for other tours because we can experiment with different artworks and sketching activities to see if they might work for other groups.” Based on the experiences with HEB ISD students at the Amon Carter, all of the gallery teachers agreed that they can see how much this district values the arts.
Students typically spent ninety minutes in the galleries with Gallery Teachers who led conversations about a variety of works. Opportunities to sketch and write about the art were integrated into the museum experience. One work of art that was a big hit with students was the abstract painting, Figure, by Morton Schamberg.
Morton Schamberg (1881–1918), Figure, oil on canvas, 1913
Now it’s your turn. Schamberg used cool colors to represent the background and warm colors to represent his subjects. Looking at Figure, can you tell what subject the artist is exploring through abstraction?