Beautiful Western art, interactives and compelling interpretation in new Western galleries

Eiteljorg Museum Experience New Western Art Sailors on ship

Beautiful Western art, interactives and compelling interpretation in new Western galleries

Grafton Tyler Brown_Castle Geyser
Grafton Tyler Brown (American, 1841–1918)
Castle Geyser, Yellowstone, 1891
Oil on canvas
Museum purchase through the generosity of Harrison Eiteljorg

Big changes are unfolding in the Eiteljorg Museum’s Western art galleries that will allow visitors to understand and appreciate the art in new ways.

The two connected Western galleries on the museum’s ground floor — the Art of the American West Gallery and the Gund Gallery — were renovated over the summer. Iconic paintings and sculptures have been reinstalled alongside newly acquired works, and are supported by engaging hands-on interactives. On Nov. 10, the galleries will reopen to the public to showcase a new exhibition: Attitudes: The West in American Art.

The reinstalled galleries will present fresh and engaging interpretations of Western art in a beautiful setting. The Attitudes exhibit places the Western art pieces into their historical and cultural contexts, and positions them within the broader framework of American art. It shows, for example, how Western art is not an isolated offshoot, but is instead deeply rooted within America’s larger artistic traditions and movements.

“Not only are our new galleries addressing the question of what Western art is, they are more deeply exploring the art’s place in American culture,” Eiteljorg President and CEO John Vanausdall said. “If a visitor wonders why a particular painting or sculpture looks the way it does, or how the artist made it, or what that artist’s life was like, then our new galleries will convey those insights. The experience will make a visit to the Eiteljorg all the more rewarding and enriching.”

Mian Situ_The Golden Mountain, Arriving San Francisco, 1865
Mian Situ (American, born in China, 1953)
The Golden Mountain, Arriving San Francisco, 1865, 2003
Oil on canvas
Museum purchase with funds provided by the Eiteljorg Museum’s Western Art Society

What will you see? Some of the stunning artworks shown in the galleries in years past that are visitor favorites will return, including paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe, Frederic Remington, Albert Bierstadt, Oscar Berninghaus and Charles Russell, and sculptures by Remington, George Carlson and Allan Houser. Through grants, many have been conserved and reframed, allowing us to show them as the artists intended. Some paintings of Native Americans are closely arranged together on a wall in salon style, as a part of interpreting their influence on perceptions of Indigenous peoples.

Also included in the exhibit are some exciting recent acquisitions that underscore the diversity of artists in the West: Castle Geyser, Yellowstone, a dramatic landscape by a 19th century African-American painter, Grafton Tyler Brown; The Golden Mountain: Arriving San Francisco, 1865, a moving historical scene by contemporary Chinese-American painter Mian Situ; and The Twins, a pottery piece by Native American artist Susan Folwell (Santa Clara Pueblo). Folwell’s piece is a contemporary interpretation of a famous early 20th century portrait already in the Eiteljorg, The Twins by E. Martin Hennings, which is juxtaposed nearby so visitors can compare the two.

E Martin Hennings_The Twins
E. Martin Hennings (American, 1886–1956)
The Twins, 1923
Oil on canvas
Gift: Courtesy of Harrison Eiteljorg

Diversity of peoples who shaped the West is a theme explored through a high-tech interactive that interprets the 20th century mural painting The Americanization of California by Dean Cornwell. Using a touchscreen, visitors can bring up information about each of the dozens of diverse figures in the Cornwell mural and consider the myths revealed versus reality of life in the West. Works by European-American artists depicting Native Americans are intermingled with artworks by Native artists themselves, conveying their own perspectives.

Enlivening the Attitudes exhibit is a mix of high- and low-tech interactives that will appeal to all ages. In the galleries’ studio space, visitors can learn and appreciate the elements of art, such as line, color, form and texture, through touchable displays and art activities suitable for families and children.

Reinstallation of the Eiteljorg’s Western galleries was several years in the planning and months in execution. Overseeing the project and exhibition are James H. Nottage, who recently retired as vice president and chief curatorial officer and Gund curator of Western art, and Johanna M. Blume, associate curator of Western art, history and culture.

Allowing visitors in to see the reinstalled galleries Saturday, Nov. 10, is such a milestone for the museum that it merits two evenings of special occasions: A reopening celebration and dinner honoring James Nottage is on Thursday, Nov. 8, and a members opening event is on Friday, Nov. 9. For reservations to either, contact or 317.275.1316.

This project to reimagine and renovate the Western galleries on the first floor is a prelude to the reinstallation of the Eiteljorg’s Native American galleries on the second floor that will take place in 2021.

Susan Folwell_The Twins
Susan Folwell (Santa Clara Pueblo, born 1970)
The Twins, 2017
Clay, cork and paint
Gift of Steve and Jane Marmon

Opening Weekend Events
NOV 8, 9, 10
See the new exhibition beginning
NOV 10

Opening Weekend — New Western Art Galleries
5:30 p.m.
Special reopening celebration honoring James Nottage’s retirement.*

6 p.m.
Preview of reopened Western galleries for members.*

*For reservations to either event, contact or call 317.275.1316.

NOV 10
11 a.m.
Lion Dance
The Indiana Association of Chinese Americans is scheduled to perform a “lion dance” to welcome and celebrate the installation of the painting The Golden Mountain, Arriving San Francisco, 1865 by Mian Situ. The dance will take place in Eagle Commons just outside the Western art galleries. The performance is included with regular admission, and museum members are free.

NOV 10
11:30 a.m.
Curator-led Gallery Tour
Johanna M. Blume, associate curator of Western art, history and culture, will lead visitors on a tour of the new Western art galleries and the exhibit, Attitudes: The West in American Art. The tour is included with regular admission, and museum members are free.

NOV 10
1 p.m.
Gund Lecture
James Nottage photo
As a part of opening the museum’s newly reimagined first-floor Western art galleries, retired Eiteljorg Vice President and Chief Curatorial Officer James H. Nottage will deliver this year’s Gund Lecture. Nottage will introduce the exhibit and discuss how art related to the West has been viewed through time, and how art expresses the West. The Gund Lecture is included with regular admission, and museum members are free.

NOV 10

Bill Price musician
2:30–4 p.m.
Music performance: I Can’t Stop Looking at the Sky
Join musicians Bill Price, Paul Holdman and Grover Parido for a multi-media performance inspired by Western skies and the history and landscapes of the West. The performance is included with regular admission, and museum members are free.



Reimagined Western Art Galleries made possible by these generous friends:
Pat and Bob Anker
Leland E. Boren
Mary Beth and Robert Braitman
Steve Cagle
Capital Group
Angie and Dick Darlington
L.G. and Alyce Edwards
Ms. Catherine Turner
Barbara and Brian West in memory of Edward A. West
Donald Woodley
Museum Entry Video Wall: Stan and Sandy Hurt
Art Education Interactives: Jane and Steve Marmon



This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Storyteller magazine.