“No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied – it speaks in silence to the very core of your being.” – Ansel Adams
The Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, featured in A Love for the Beautiful, is among ten venues nationwide hosting “National Geographic Greatest Photographs of the American West” – a visual retrospective of images published by National Geographic over the past 125 years.
From poignant portraits to spectacular national parks and wildlife, the 75 images present a powerful narrative about the American West. Organized thematically into four sections — Legends, Encounters, Boundaries and Visions — the show features historic works by early practitioners William Henry Jackson and Edward Curtis, along with modern and contemporary images by photographers like Ansel Adams, Annie Griffiths and Joel Sartore.
The National Geographic Society began documenting the West in 1888. From its vast archive, a team of curators from the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming reviewed thousands of images, honed through the magazine’s history and NGS staffers. “We got down to around 500 and sorted them into the thematic sections,” explains Jim McNutt, president and CEO of the National Museum of Wildlife Art. “We were looking specifically for great images and for items that attest to the diversity of the NG image collection.”
Among the remarkable selections is William Albert Allard’s American Indian Beauty Pageant Winner, Oregon, 1997 featuring Acosia Red Elk waiting for the start of a parade in the annual fall Pendleton Round-Up. Some of the images are classics — like South Dakota, 1938, Charles D’Emery’s iconic shot of Mount Rushmore, Gutzon Borglum’s granite homage to America’s presidents. The oldest photograph — William Henry Jackson’s 1873 image of Colorado’s Mountain of the Holy Cross — became one of the most popular of the 19th century. Jackson took the shot after he and his team hauled hundreds of pounds of equipment up 1500 feet.
“Many of the images have resonance with all the collections in the Buffalo Bill Historical Center,” says Mindy Besaw, Curator of BBHC’s Whitney Gallery of Western Art. “In general, the images are very artistic – not only “documentary” in nature.” The photography also complements the BBHC’s McCracken Research Library collection, a rich resource of some 500,000 photographs — many of which are accessible online.
In a unique collaboration, the exhibition is on view concurrently at nine other museums: Booth Western Art Museum (Cartersville, Georgia), Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art (Indianapolis, Indiana), Gilcrease Museum (Tulsa, Oklahoma), National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), National Geographic Museum (Washington, D.C.), National Museum of Wildlife Art (Jackson Hole, Wyoming), Rockwell Museum of Western Art (Corning, New York), C.M. Russell Museum (Great Falls, Montana), and Stark Museum of Art (Orange, Texas). For more information, visit www.bbhc.org
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