Saturday, May 17, 2008

Exploring America's Wild West Country

The best way to learn about the history and heritage of a place is to visit the best museum out there. Texas the second largest state in the US is famous for as Wild West Country and is known for its adventurous and carefree cowboys and cowgirls. When one hears about the Wild West, one tends to think only of cattle, cowboys, fighting, drinking, vast plains etc. But wait there is lot more to Texas than just that. The Wild West evolved its own form of art, Art of the American West.

Recently I heard about this wonderful museum with a vast collection of art, collections lay special focus on the art of the American West. Sited in Orange, Texas the Stark Museum of Art is a treasure trove of Western Art, American Indian Art, Decorative Arts, and Rare Books and Manuscripts. The museum is one of the best places to learn about the rich cultural and artistic heritage of American West in general and Texas in particular.

Stark Museum began as a private collection of Miriam Lutcher Stark who brought in pieces of art, furniture, and decorative items from around the world. Her son, Lutcher Stark developed a similar passion but specialised his interest towards nature and art depicting the American West. Both mother and son shared the desire that one day a museum in Orange, Texas, would display the works of art they collected.

Lutcher Stark began his collection with artworks of Texas artists and during the late 1920s and early 1930s, he amassed American Indian objects from New Mexico. And as he passed out of university and entered into business he continued to build his collection with his wife Nelda Childers. During the 1950s, Lutcher Stark expanded his collection with the rare five-volume set of John James Audubon's Birds of America; porcelain birds and flowers by Dorothy Doughty and Edward M. Boehm. Towards the end of the 1950s, the Starks added 230 works by Paul Kane.

In 1961 the couple founded the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation to enrich the quality of life in Southeast Texas through education and the arts. But sadly in 1965 Lutcher Stark passed away and the foundation came under the direction of Nelda C. Stark, who initiated building of the Stark Museum of Art. After over a decade of hard work, the Stark Museum of Aat opened its doors for public on November 29, 1978.

The Stark Museum of Art is famed for some of the finest collections of 19th and 20th century Western American art and artifacts in the country. The main focus of the exhibits at the Stark Museum is the region's dramatic people, stunning land and diverse wildlife. The collections have been carefully organised into four distinct galleries viz, Western Art, American Indian Art, Decorative Arts and Rare Manuscripts and books.

The Western Art collection conveys the artistic interpretation of the American west through the works of the region's best artists. Artworks of over two centuries have been collected and displayed in this section.

The collection of American Indian Art comprises of fascinating works of art created by members of the native Indian tribes of the Great Plains, Southwest, Eastern Woodlands and Northwest Coast. A must see section in my opinion.

The Decorative Arts section of the museum features stunning artworks in glass and porcelain including numerous items by Steuben Glass and also the only complete set of the United States in Crystal.

The collection of Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Stark Museum is a treat to the eye and envy of museums across the world. The collection includes John James Audubon’s rare work titled The Birds of America, seven Books of Hours, and hundreds of rare manuscripts.

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