Current Exhibitions
George Catlin's American Buffalo

Direct from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the museum presents George Catlin's American Buffalo.

Forty early 19th-century paintings of American buffalo will have special resonance with museum visitors this spring.

Kansas embraces the buffalo as our state animal, and the song "Home on the Range," first published as "Oh, Give Me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam" in 1873 in Smith County, Kansas, is our state song.

George Catlin was among the first artists to explore the American West. He traveled through the interior of North America recording in word and image American Indians and their ways of life from 1830 to 1838. Buffalo roamed in massive herds and provided food, clothing, and shelter for many of the tribes Catlin visited. The burly beast appears in numerous paintings by Catlin, given their central role in Plains Indian life.

George Catlin's American Buffalo is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in collaboration with the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Generous support for the exhibition has been provided by Mary Anne and Richard W. Cree and Lynn and Foster Friess. Additional support was provided by the William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment Fund and Smithsonian Council for American Art. Support for Treasures to Go, the Museum's traveling exhibition program, comes from the C.F. Foundation, Atlanta, Georgia.

The Wichita presentation for the exhibition has been generously sponsored by The Fred and Mary Koch Foundation and Sondra M. Langel and Richard D. Smith. Additional support has been provided by Thornton Anderson, DeVore Family Foundation, Gridley Family Foundation, and Martin Pringle Attorneys at Law.

 

 

 

 

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Paul Cezanne’s Apples: Still Life from the Wichita Art Museum Collection

Still life—the arrangement and artistic portrayal of inanimate and often commonplace objects—has been a respected category of artmaking for centuries.

A golden age of still-life painting emerged in Northern Europe in the 17th century as a prosperous and growing merchant class focused on home and personal possessions. With the advent of modernism in the late 19th and  early 20th centuries, still life again grew in popularity.

For modern artists, still life became a foil for dynamic artistic experimentation. As French artist Paul Cézanne defiantly claimed, "with an  apple, I will astonish Paris."

Across the centuries, still-life subjects were often embedded with symbolism. Picked fruit or a burning candle could evoke man’s mortality, for example. Maps would infer exploration or discovery, while roses were a symbol of purity. The modernists abandoned such meanings. Instead, they embraced the tradition of still life and took advantage of the combination of objects purely for artistic invention. Objects no longer conveyed set meanings. The composition, shapes, colors, juxtapositions, and brushstrokes grew in significance as the inventive vocabulary of painting itself became primary. As American artist John Sloan explained, "the subject may be the first importance to the artist when he starts a picture, but it should be the least importance in the finished product. The subject is of no aesthetic significance." French modernist Raoul Dufy put it succinctly, "the subject itself is of no account; what matters is the way it is presented."

This spring, the Wichita Art Museum examines the range of avenues for still-life painting in 19th- and 20th-century American art. Select work from the museum's collection reveals how artists approached this time-honored tradition with distinctly different approaches.

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Gesture and Expression: Isabel Bishop and the Fourteenth Street School

Isabel Bishop (1902-1988) was one of New York City's leading artists from the 1930s to the 1950s. She is best known for her paintings, drawings, and prints  depicting shop girls, vagrant men, and teeming life around Union Square.

In Bishop's time, Union Square was one of the busiest commercial and entertainment districts in this booming metropolis. Home to major department stores, theaters, and movie houses, the small businesses in the area provided close to 10,000 jobs.

She was a force in the cadre of artists called the 14th Street School, so called after the thoroughfare  at the south end of this famous public square. In the artist's words, "the beauty, drama, and miraculous effects" of Manhattan inspired her to combine a style drawn from the Old Masters with a contemporary taste for urban realism.

With an interest in gesture, sensitivity to detail, and remarkable artistic expression, Bishop portrayed ordinary people in an extraordinary way.

Using models that she would find on the street, Bishop created dozens of sketches and etchings to capture a specific moment. The artist's depictions of everyday people caught at casual moments, nevertheless, engage with the significant social debates of gender and class differences that marked the 1930s.

Bishop taught at the Art Students League as the only female full-time instructor from 1936 to 1937. Additionally, she was the first woman to hold an executive position in the National Institute of Arts and Letters when she became vice-president in 1946. Yet, Bishop maintained, "I didn't want to be a woman artist; I just wanted to be an artist."

Utilizing the strong holdings in WAM's permanent collection, this exhibition presents Bishop’s socially engaged work and examines her role at the Art Students League as well as her lasting artistic
contributions.

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The Era of Downton Abbey: British Watercolors from the Wichita Art Museum Collection

PBS has kicked off Season Four of its wildly popular series Downton Abbey on Masterpiece Classic.

In conjuction with the premiere of Season Four, the Wichita Art Museum presents a selection of watercolors from its permanent collection that reflect the central themes and storylines of the British drama.

View vistas of crumbling, overgrown, once-grand manor houses that remind us why Lord Grantham struggles so valiantly to save his ancestral home. Examine portraits of peasants and  barristers that recall the undercurrent of class distinctions that punctuate the social interactions in the show. Enjoy scenes of elaborate home interiors and country churches.

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Indian Territory: Contemporary American Indian Art from the Wichita Art Museum Collection

My art, my life experience, and my tribal ties are totally enmeshed. I go from one community with messages to the other, and I try to enlighten people.
—Artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith

To be an artist from the Indian world carries with it certain responsibilities. We have an opportunity to promote Indian truths and, at the same time, help  dispel the myths and stereotypes that are projected upon us. I consider myself an at-large representative and advocate of the Chippewa people and American Indians in general. It is a responsibility I do not take lightly.
—Artist David P. Bradley

Contemporary American Indian artists examine and explore their heritage. At the same time, they live within, absorb, and reflect on the larger American mass culture. Indian Territory in the West ended in 1907, when Oklahoma became the 46th state to enter the Union. Nonetheless, Indian territory as a state of mind and cultural identity remains as potent as ever and very vibrant. Selections from the museum’s permanent collection reveal the range of questions, cultural myths, and artistic vocabularies that contemporary American Indian artists grapple with today.

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Murdock and Beyond: Pairings from the Permanent Collection

When Elizabeth Navas began purchasing works for the Roland P. Murdock collection in 1939, she firmly believed that the art of a country was its best historical document.

Until the final acquisition in 1962, Navas collected 168 American paintings, sculptures, and graphics dating from the Colonial period through the mid-20th century.

Today, the Murdock Collection at Wichita Art Museum is recognized as one of the premier collections of American art.

This exhibition pairs work from the Murdock Collection with other artworks acquired after 1962 for the collection. These pairings emphasize the strength of WAM’s collection as a whole. They also invite viewers to develop their own ideas about the role of art in our history and lives.

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American Impressionists

Starting in the 1880s, American painters embraced impressionism and utilized the techniques of their French counterparts, such as a brighter palette, the use of broken brushwork, and an interest in the way light could be captured on canvas.

The themes American impressionists explored were impacted by the aftermath of the American Civil War, when an intense longing for order and stability led artists to favor quiet, peaceful views conveying comfort and hope.

Highlights from the museum's American impressionist collection are installed in the Carlene and Lee Banks Rotunda Gallery.

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Steuben Glass from the Wichita Art Museum Collection

The Wichita Art Museum holds the largest collection of Steuben glass outside the Corning Museum of Glass, the museum in the city of the former Steuben Glass Works. An impressive selection of the Dr. Robert S. Burnstein collection is now on display in the F. Price Cossman Memorial Trust Gallery.

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