In the mid-19th century artists often depicted women as victims, passive observers or merely passengers in the settlement of the American West. Some artists chose to portray Western women in the guise of a “Madonna” figure, based on Renaissance paintings of the Virgin Mary.
The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is hosting the art exhibition “Madonnas of the Prairie: Depictions of Women in the American West.” Organized by the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas, the exhibit is open during regular Museum hours through Mother’s Day, May 10.
The exhibition draws on the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum and public and private collections to showcase the offerings of painters, printmakers, photographers and sculptors across the art spectrum. Artists represented include Dorothea Lange, Beulah Schiller Ayars, H.D. Bugbee, W. Herbert Dunton, Ben Carlton Mead, Gerald Cassidy, W. H. D. Koerner, Remington Schuyler, Gina Knee, Herbert Morton Stoops, Margaret Wright Tupper, P.V.E. Ivory, Olin Travis, Jerry Bywaters and many others.
“Madonnas of the Prairie” is supplemented with several material culture items from the permanent collection according to Mike Leslie, assistant director. In addition, a robust schedule of educational programming for children and adults is offered, including Docent-led tours each Tuesday at 2 p.m. through May 5.
On May 2, Dorothy Wickenden, author of The New York Times bestseller Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West will present a talk and participate in a book signing. Books may be preordered through The Museum Store at store.nationalcowboymuseum.org or by calling (405) 478-2250, Ext. 228. The store also is offering the “Madonnas of the Prairie” exhibition catalog, a beautiful commemorative of the art with essays by Bonney MacDonald, Ph.D. and curator Michael Grauer.
The “Madonnas of the Prairie” exhibition is sponsored by The Kerr Foundation Inc., ITC, Ann Simmons Alspaugh and the Oklahoma Humanities Council (OHC). Funding in part is provided by a grant from the OHC and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed do not necessarily represent those of OHC or NEH. The PPHM exhibition was made possible in part by a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Nationally accredited, the Museum is located in Oklahoma City’s Adventure District at the junction of Interstates 44 and 35. For more information, visit www.nationalcowboymuseum.org.
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