24 Oct Grafton Tyler Brown: An important new acquisition
By James H. Nottage, vice president and chief curatorial officer and Gund curator of Western art, history and culture
Grafton Tyler Brown (1841-1918)
Castle Geyser, Yellowstone, 1891
Oil on canvas
Museum purchase through the generosity of Harrison Eiteljorg
Visitors to the Eiteljorg starting in November 2018 will experience beautifully reimagined Western art galleries. The best of our collections will be featured; and new experiences through technology will help convey the history and meaning of the art. The best of works from the Harrison Eiteljorg, George Gund, and K. S. “Bud” Adams collections will be shown in the best light, and will be joined by works acquired to fill gaps in the overall collection.
The good news is that one of the newly acquired paintings is on exhibit right now, and it will be part of the galleries and our efforts to demonstrate the broader diversity of Western art by artists from many national and cultural backgrounds. Now featured in the Gund Gallery of Western Art is a notable painting by Grafton Tyler Brown.
Born in Pennsylvania in 1841, Brown moved to San Francisco and worked as a lithographer and commercial artist. Brown was one of a small number of recognized African American painters to work in the West in the 1800s. He became known for creating and publishing cityscapes, business documents and maps. Later he was known for his paintings of the Western landscape, settling for a time in Oregon, British Columbia and Montana. His last years were spent as a draftsman and map maker in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Grafton Tyler Brown’s depictions of Yosemite, Yellow-stone and the mountains of the Pacific Northwest are represented in a select few museum collections. Castle Geyser, Yellowstone, was sketched on-site by Brown on Sep. 6, 1890, and the canvas was completed in 1891 at his Helena, Montana, studio. The work reminds us that people with diverse roots have been a part of the Western experience, and that the traces of their lives are something we can all see and appreciate. The work also helps to expand the museum’s holdings of landscape views of the American West.
Grafton Tyler Brown at work in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1883.
Courtesy of Royal BC Museum, BC Archives, Victoria.
This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Storyteller magazine.