Denver Art Museum Announces Landmark Gift of Western American Art and Creation of New Acquisition Fund

Collector Henry Roath’s monumental donation will transform DAM’s western American art collection and department

The Denver Art Museum (DAM) announced today that Denver collector Henry Roath has pledged to give the museum’s Petrie Institute of Western American Art (PIWAA) his collection of approximately 50 artworks by masters of the American West including Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, Frederic Remington and Ernest L. Blumenschein. Considered one of the best private collections of western American art in the country, the Roath collection focuses on art of the American Southwest with a strength in works from members of the Taos Society of Artists. Additionally, Roath has made a financial gift of $500,000 to help establish a fund for future art acquisitions, enabling continued growth and development. Roath’s commitment gained support from other donors, immediately growing the fund to more than $1 million.

Ernest L. Blumenschein, Landscape with Indian Camp, 1920, reworked 1929. The Roath Collection.

Ernest L. Blumenschein, Landscape with Indian Camp, 1920, reworked 1929. The Roath Collection.
“Mr. Roath’s generous gift to the museum and the people of Denver is one of the most important donations in our history,” said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the Denver Art Museum. “This transformational gift further establishes the museum’s western American art collection as one of the best in the United States.”

PIWAA’s mission is to recognize and promote the significance of the West in the larger picture of American cultural development. Through publications, research, symposia, exhibitions and acquisitions, the Institute strives to bring the DAM to the forefront of internationally respected centers of western American art. Started in 2001, today it is home to one of the best collections in the country with specific strengths in early western American paintings, bronze sculpture, the Taos Society of Artists and early modernism in the American West.

“With this gift, and Mr. Roath’s generous financial commitment to an acquisitions fund, the Institute can take the next step in its three part plan,” said Thomas Brent Smith, Petrie Institute of Western American Art Director. “First we focused on enriching our city and region by developing an Institute that is a leader in scholarship, programming and exhibitions. Then we set our sights on securing our financial future by successfully endowing the department. Now we can focus on strengthening our collection.”

The collection, ranging in date from 1877 to 1972, features oil paintings, watercolors and bronze sculpture. Highlights include:

  • Snowy Range by Thomas Moran, a 1896 landscape painting of the Grand Tetons;
  • Two important casts of Frederic Remington’s iconic sculpture Broncho Buster;
  • Landscape with Indian Camp, 1920, by Taos Society of Artists master Ernest L. Blumenschein;
  • Black Bears, about 1933, by William Herbert Dunton;
  • The Rendezvous, about 1930, by E. Martin Hennings.

The Roath Collection, which is currently on loan to the museum, will remain on view in the level two and level seven western American art galleries.

Thomas Moran, Snowy Range, 1896. The Roath Collection.

Thomas Moran, Snowy Range, 1896. The Roath Collection.
“I want the collection to be accessible to the public,” Roath said. “The Denver Art Museum has made a strong commitment to art of the region and has a bold program. I’m excited for visitors and the public to be able to experience the masters of the American West firsthand. I hope this gift will inspire others to further grow the acquisition fund so that the collection can continue to evolve.”

The museum’s black-tie fundraiser, Collectors’ Choice, will honor Roath, along with two other significant supporters of the department: Jim Wallace and Tom Petrie. The proceeds from the December 5, 2013, event will support the acquisition fund.

Petrie Institute of Western American Art History

In 2001, the museum received the gift of a large, important collection of western paintings and bronzes from William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen, which provided the impetus for establishing the institute of western American Art.  

In 2006, thanks to a major contribution to the building campaign from Cortlandt Dietler, the galleries were relocated from level seven of the North Building to level two of the Frederic C. Hamilton Building. In 2007, the institute received a new title, the Petrie Institute of Western American Art, following a gift from Tom and Jane Petrie to partially endow the department. A year later, in 2010, the fundraising effort to endow the Petrie Institute was completed through gifts from dozens of donors throughout the community. The Petrie Institute retained the Dietler Gallery in the Hamilton Building and added more than 7,000 square feet of space on level seven of the North Building in the Betsy Magness Galleries, in 2010, nearly doubling the gallery space and allowing the museum to tell the story of the art of the West with even greater resonance.

The department has quickly become a national leader in programming related to western American art, regularly presenting exhibitions and producing publications. Recent highlights include the major exhibitions and related publications In Contemporary Rhythm: The Art of Ernest L. Blumenschein, 2008; The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell: A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture, 2009; Charles Deas and 1840s America, 2009; and the forthcoming The American West in Bronze, 2013.