Painted Journeys: The Art of John Mix Stanley
June 6 – August 29, 2015
Special Exhibitions Gallery
Today, 150 years after the Smithsonian gallery housing his paintings burned to the ground, premier painter of the American West John Mix Stanley is receiving a long overdue retrospective exhibition at three western art venues, including the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming. Featured June 6 to August 29, 2015, in the Center’s Special Exhibition Gallery was Painted Journeys: The Art of John Mix Stanley.
Stanley traveled thousands of miles crisscrossing the western territories in the mid-1800s, venturing as far as the kingdom of Hawaii. The prolific artist is best known for his portraits of American Indians created for his Indian Gallery. The Center’s groundbreaking exhibition features sixty of Stanley’s key surviving works including his famous Indian portraits and scenes from military and government survey expeditions in the West.
“In his day, Stanley was viewed as the premier painter of American Indians,” says exhibition co-curator, Peter H. Hassrick, Senior Scholar and Director Emeritus at the Center. “His motivation was to give America’s Native people a face as the subjects of fine art—unlike artists George Catlin and Karl Bodmer who were driven more by the restraints of science and the desire to record the moment. Without Stanley, we would be hard pressed to find artistically well-considered images of Native Americans that span the entirety of the western United States.”
In 1852, Stanley entrusted his Indian Gallery of more than 150 works to the Smithsonian Institution. The gallery grew to in excess of two hundred paintings, and scholars and art aficionados praised it for its superior artistic merit and historical value to the nation. It remained on display in the nation’s capital for thirteen years until 1865, when a fire at the Smithsonian destroyed all but seven of Stanley’s paintings. Despite this tragic loss, he continued his quest to paint the West and its inhabitants, and attempted to rebuild his gallery in various formats.
After closing at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, the exhibition traveled to the Gilcrease Museum, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, (October 3, 2015 — January 3, 2016), followed by a run at the Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, Washington, (January 30 – May 1, 2016).