Visions of the West

April 24 – August 14, 2021

Albert Bierstadt, Indian Encampment in the Rockies, 1863, Lithograph; Wichita Falls Museum of Art at MSU Texas Permanent Collection, Museum Purchase.
Albert Bierstadt, Indian Encampment in the Rockies, 1863, Lithograph; Wichita Falls Museum of Art at MSU Texas Permanent Collection, Museum Purchase, 1978.  

Regionalism, realism and the sublime in art have appealed to generations of Americans. Today, we can view art from and about the American west with a blend of nostalgia and appreciation, as it combines fantasy, history, and aesthetic appeal, while keeping in mind the hard changes that occurred in its unfolding. In this exhibition we see works by regionalist and contemporary artists, from the WFMA Permanent Collection and on loan from a private collector, that reflect the cultural time and place each artist has lived.

In this exhibit we see the works of well-known artists not bound together by technique like a lot of art movements, but, instead, tied together through subject, the American West. We can see the different artistic interpretations used to promote the adventure, grandeur, and picturesque landscape we often associate with the region.

Danny Bills, WFMA Curator of Collections and Exhibitions

Art from and about the American west has appealed to generations of Americans. The artistic styles of regionalism, realism, and the sublime, among others, readily captivate us and can be viewed with a blend of nostalgia and appreciation. Art of the American west contributed to and was influenced by a complex national history, rooted in European history and in evolving ideologies, including the ideologies of art. Seen today this art reflects the struggles, changes, and indelible experiences that have been lived on this land. 

As early as the 1820s artists joined both European and American expeditions, as topographical artists and artist-naturalists, to document what they saw. European Louis Choris and Philadelphians Samuel Seymour and Titian Peale produced early renderings of the coasts of California and Hawaii, the Rocky Mountains, and prairie and high plains animals, adding to the existing language of cave and rock paintings. Throughout time artists have made this land and its people their subject. 

H. O. Robertson, Cotton in February, 1937, Oil on board
H. O. Robertson, Cotton in February, 1937, Oil on board; On loan from a private collection.

Visions of the West is a compilation of artworks that touch on a few of the myriad aspects of the American west, still unfolding today. These artists, spanning the late 1800s to the present, made art from the lens through which they saw the world, ultimately influenced by time, place, and culture—and by the language of art. Through them we are invited to encounter the powerful idea of the west in various contexts, periods, and styles that reveal some part of the experience of others within the vastness of human life. 


George Caleb Bingham The Jolly Flatboatmen

Diving Deeper

Join WFMA Director, Tracee Robertson, this summer as she looks closely at works in the current exhibition, “Visions of the West,” spanning from the mid-1800s to the present and showcasing artists’ varied experiences of the ever unfolding American west.