Lonesome Dove Exhibit

 Sid Richardson Museum, Fort Worth

The Lonesome Dove exhibit currently on display at the Sid Richardson Museum of Western Art–admission is free–309 Main Street in downtown Fort Worth was reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, January 28. Annie thought you might like to read it (see below).

“Legends may die hard, but myths never die. They change; they proliferate; they deepen. Consider the cowboy, the closing of the West, everything that both recedes historically and burns bright through the haze of nostalgia.

Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Lonesome Dove” (1985) inspired a television miniseries that itself spawned subsequent series. Now, at the small, excellent Sid Richardson Museum here, “Lonesome Dove: The Art of Story” (through June 19) presents production materials from Texas State University’s Lonesome Dove Collection, pages from Mr. McMurtry’s manuscript for his novel and others from the screenplay, along with film clips, storyboard sketches, costume drawings, a trail map of the mythical Texas-to-Montana cattle drive, and the diary of a cowboy named Jack Bailey who participated in a real-life 1868 cattle drive. These objects will appeal to fans of the novel and the TV series.

The highlight of the show for art lovers, however, is a group of four paintings by Frederic Remington (1861-1909) that here hang jointly for the first time. Considered together, this quartet—one from the Richardson, the others from Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum, Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts and Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum—allows a viewer to take the measure of an artist too easily dismissed as a mere “cowboy” painter, and to see the astonishing range of his techniques within his short career.

His earlier work (like the 1889 “Sentinel” here) is conventional in its composition and palette. In his last 15 years, acknowledging that the West had retreated to the land of myth, Remington embraced impressionistic techniques and made many pictures of an almost elegiac darkness.

The four centerpiece pictures put his multiple talents on view. “The Fall of the Cowboy” (1895) is a winter study in gray, white and brown. If Whistler had gone West he might have painted like this. The 1903 “Fight for the Waterhole” looks like a pastel, all pink, yellow and blue. The 1909 “Buffalo Runners—Big Horn Basin” has the thickest impasto and the brightest colors. Indians on horses are racing across the prairie, beneath a big sky, their energy rendered in brash, dangerous brushstrokes. An almost palpable heat comes from the thickness of the paint.
Most astonishing is “The Stampede” (1908), with a single sliver of lightning on the right side, and, in the background, a driving rain rendered in delicate diagonal strokes that create an unnerving, eerie feeling. In his diary, Remington called the “unearthly” light he saw and reproduced “the glorious yellow glow of a rain storm.” “The Stampede” also brings to life a remark made by Bailey, the cowboy diarist: “You bet they made the ground roar.”

In all four paintings you see not only Remington’s changing palette but also his deep concern for light and weather, for figures within a landscape. He pays equal attention to shadows and sunshine, night and day, stasis and movement, individuals and groups. Few painters can make a viewer feel wintry chill or summer heat as well as he. In an adjacent room, the late “A Figure of the Night” (1908) from the Richardson’s permanent collection depicts a single Indian on his horse, bundled in a shawl. The picture, intense and ghostly, combines a palette of sickly blue, green and white (for snow and ice) in its lower half with a dark forest of menacing shadows above and behind the solitary subject.

This little show—with its combination of the written and spoken word, and the silence of painting and sculpture—speaks volumes about both the disappearance and the continuing presence of one crucial American myth.”

You’ll need to pay for parking unless you go on the weekends. The ticket givers are extremely active in downtown Fort Worth. Oh, come to think of it, if you have a FW Library Card, you can park in the downtown garage at 3rd. and Taylor free for 2 1/2 hours, but you have to go inside the Central Library and get your parking ticket stamped.

Annie Ambles to the Sid Richardson Museum to view the Lonesome Dove Exhibit


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