Petrie Institute of Western American Art

Alexander Phimister Proctor

American, 1862–1950

The Buckaroo



William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen Collection, by exchange, 2005.12

This iconic image of the Buckaroo was Alexander Phimister Proctor’s second attempt at using a cowboy as a subject and was the first sculpture he copyrighted. Proctor’s first use of a cowboy was years earlier, in 1892, and was the first sculptural depiction of a cowboy in the history of American art. The Buckaroo (a cowboy who broke wild horses) seen here was later conceived, in 1918, in monumental scale for the Civic Center Park in Denver.

Alexander Phimister Proctor

American, 1862–1950

Q Street Bridge Buffalo



Funds from the Harry I. and Edythe Smookler Memorial Endowment, Estelle Wolf, and the Flowe Foundation, 2011.276

There may not be a subject more emblematic of the American West than the buffalo. And there may not have been a greater sculptor than Alexander Phimister Proctor to deal with this uniquely American subject. In 1911, when the Fine Arts Commission of Washington D.C. decided to build the Dumbarton (or Q Street) Bridge they chose Proctor, who was already acclaimed for his public sculpture, to decorate it with four massive sculptures of buffalo. These sculptures are Proctor’s most celebrated large-scale works. In addition to the life-size bronzes, Proctor produced several 13½ inch tall Q Street Bridge Buffalo bronzes, like the one in the Denver Art Museum’s collection.

Proctor is recognized as one of America’s foremost sculptors of animals and Native American subjects, especially at the monumental scale. Born in Bozanquit, Ontario, his family relocated to Colorado where he first sketched wild animals. Proctor moved to New York in 1885 and by 1886 he had enrolled at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students’ League. There, he dedicated himself to the study of animal anatomy. His career took off after the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 where he showed thirty-five life-sized animal plasters and two equestrian statues. In 1894 Proctor further honed his craft in Paris at the Academie Julian. Invitations to collaborate with Augustus Saint-Gaudens brought him back to New York after a year abroad. Proctor modeled the horses for two of Gaudens’ equestrian statues: General John A. Logan in Chicago’s Grant Park, and General William T. Sherman in New York’s Grand Army Plaza. Many consider the Sherman monument to be the greatest equestrian sculpture in American history. After receiving the prestigious Rinehart scholarship, Proctor returned to Paris for several years. While there he earned critical acclaim for works submitted to the Paris Salon of 1898 and the Exposition Universelle of 1900. Proctor eventually returned to America and enjoyed a celebrated career that included several more monumental commissions as well as many important small scale works.

Robert Henri

American, 1865–1929

Tom Po Qui (Water of Antelope Lake/Indian Girl/Romancita)


Oil paint on canvas

William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen Collection, 2001.461

In the first decade of the 20th century, painter Robert Henri was the eminent teacher and promoter of a modern American art style. His list of pupils and followers were many and his voice was as strong as any American painter. Henri had studied in Paris before returning to Philadelphia to teach and by 1892 he attracted a strong following of young illustrators including William Glackens, George Luks, Everett Shinn and John Sloan.1 In 1902, Henri began teaching at the New York School of Art where he widened his influence by instructing artists like George Bellows, Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent, Randall Davey, Stuart Davis and others.

In the summer of 1914, Henri accepted an invitation from a former to visit La Jolla, California. Although primarily known as a portrait painter, Henri found subjects in Southern California that he believed worthy of his efforts. Henri’s dedication to painting the social outsiders in American society did not waver in the West. He replaced gypsies and Irish immigrants as subjects for Indians, Mexicans, and Chinese. While his subject matter may have stayed consistent, the artist’s palette changed in the West with vibrant colors replacing dark, brooding backgrounds. Among the portraits Henri completed that summer in La Jolla was Tom Po Qui (Water of Antelope Lake/Indian Girl/Romancita), a Tewa artist who was visiting San Diego. The hot brilliant yellows, blues, and pinks mixed with white upon a nondescript background are inspired by California. Henri paid much attention to his subject’s attire, carefully depicting her squash blossom necklace, silver bracelets, and traditional Tewa clothing.

Frank Mechau

American, 1904–46

Rodeo-Pickup Man

About 1930

Oil paint on canvas

Gift of Anne Evans, 1935.9

Born in Kansas on January 26, 1904, Mechau moved to Colorado as a young boy and grew up in Glenwood Springs, but spent much of his adult life in Denver. As a young art student, Mechau financed his early art studies by boxing professionally and working as a railroad cattle hand. In 1922 until around 1924 he studied at the University of Denver, the Denver Academy of Fine Arts, and the Art Institute of Chicago. After traveling to New York, Paris, Florence, Munich and London, Mechau returned to Denver in the early 1930s and began teaching. Mechau combined the popular western subject matter of a Rodeo pick up man—a cowboy who worked rough stock events, managing the horses and bulls in the rodeo ring and, when necessary, rescuing riders from their horses—with a modernist method of flattening and simplifying figures into planes of bright almost unnatural colors. He concentrated more on line, color, and shape, than a realistic depiction of a man on horseback. In this painting, Mechau showed his knowledge of and love for western subjects. As in many of his paintings, he depicts movement while maintaining a quality of frozen action.

Theodore Waddell

American, born 1941

Motherwell's Angus


Oil paint on canvas

Gift of Barbara J. and James R. Hartley, 1999.84

Theodore Waddell arrived in New York in the early 1960s, only a decade after abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and Clyfford Still dominated the art world. Gleaning elements from this abstract expressionist art movement, Waddell returned home to his native Montana and created works of nearly abstract backgrounds that suggest landscapes. By painting figures that symbolized cattle in snow-filled backgrounds, Waddell walks the line between abstraction and realism.

Raymond Jonson

American, 1891–1982

Pueblo Series, Acoma


Oil paint on canvas

William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen Collection, 2001.441

Born in Chariton, Iowa, Raymond Jonson became one of America’s better-known modernist painters and a leading voice for the modernist movement in New Mexico. Jonson received his formal training at the Art Institute of Chicago, studying under B.J.O. Nordfeldt, with whom he would later reconnect in New Mexico, and at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. Jonson’s first exposure to modernism was the 1913 Armory Show, which he saw in Chicago. The Armory Show, which was first exhibited at the Sixty-Ninth Regiment Armory in New York, brought together American artistic experimentalism and European modernism and heralded the arrival of avant-garde painting to the United States. The show provoked an intense public reaction that ranged from enthusiasm to disgust; for the first time, Americans could view works of art by Picasso, Matisse, Cezanne, Duchamp, Kandinsky, and many other icons of European modernism. This historic event, remembered as a moment of artistic insurgence, had a significant impact on young painters such as Jonson, whose exposure to cubism, mysticism, and German expressionism greatly influenced the course of his painting.

Jonson moved permanently to Santa Fe in 1924 to continue painting themes he had first explored on a visit in the summer of 1922. Enchanted by the grandeur of the mountains and the artistic possibilities of the landscape, he acquainted himself spiritually with the shapes, forms and rhythms of New Mexico during the 1920s. Jonson’s interest in artistic spiritualism principally derived from the writings of Wassily Kandinsky, whose 1912 book The Search for the Spiritual in Art urged artists to seek an inner emotional content in art, consistently compelled him to search for a material expression of the immaterial. Using semi-abstract forms and vibrant colors, Jonson devoted his energy to capturing the rhythmic elements of the New Mexico landscape. Pueblo Series, Acoma is typical of Jonson’s technique before he turned totally to the abstract in 1927; it illustrates the two most salient features of his style during this period. First, Jonson has simplified the natural forms of the towering rock formation and surrounding landscape into geometric shapes, while accentuating their angular and linear qualities. Second, he has created a powerful sense of emotion in the painting through the graduated arrangement of dramatically colored planes. Throughout his career, Jonson maintained his interest in the rapid-fire succession of styles characteristic of modernist art in the first half of the 20th century. In his best work, however—and Pueblo Series, Acoma may well be his greatest painting—Jonson transcended any number of “isms” to achieve a mastery all his own.

John Marin

American, 1870–1953

Near Taos No. 5

About 1930


William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen Collection, 2001.453

Near Taos No. 5 is one of more than 100 watercolors John Marin painted during two summer visits to New Mexico in 1929 and 1930. Near Taos No. 5 depicts the west end of the Hondo Valley, northwest of Taos. John Marin is celebrated as one of America’s foremost watercolorists and one of its most important modernists. Following formal training at the Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts and the Art Students League in New York, Marin went to Paris in 1905 for a five-year stay. Like many of his American contemporaries, he was inspired by artistic movements that emerged toward the end of the 19th century and during the first two decades of the 20th, including impressionism, post-impressionism, fauvism, cubism, and even futurism. Yet Marin’s style remained distinctly his own. He devised unique ways of portraying the inner excitement and energy of the things he painted, from seascapes and bustling urban scenes to the mountains of New Mexico.

Marin’s stature as a nationally-known landscapist was already secure by 1929, when he first visited Taos at the invitation of society hostess Mabel Dodge Luhan. Stunned by the intense light and expansive harshness of the New Mexico landscape, he sought to capture those qualities in his familiar abstract style. Although Marin’s stay in Taos was relatively brief, the impact he left on other artists in New Mexico was significant. The symbiotic relationship he developed with Andrew Dasburg has been well documented; the two often painted together and shared a compositional preference for the diagonal rather than horizontal division of space. Other artists working in Taos and Santa Fe around 1930, including Victor Higgins, Cady Wells, Gina Knee Brook, and Ward Lockwood, borrowed elements of Marin’s style in hopes of achieving similar effects. Although Marin left New Mexico in 1930, his vision continued to influence his contemporaries well into the following decade and beyond.

Solon Borglum

American, 1868–1922

Lassoing Wild Horses



William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen Collection, by exchange, 2011.9

Borglum began his journey to become a sculptor late in life. He worked as a rancher in Nebraska and California before moving to Cincinnati to study painting at the Cincinnati Art School. He earned enough money in local sculpture contests to journey to Paris. There he was fortunate to meet Bela Pratt whose circle of friends included the American sculptors Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Frederick MacMonnies, and Alexander Phimister Proctor. Borglum was allowed the use of Pratt’s stable as a studio. Lassoing Wild Horses, modeled in 1898 in this Paris studio was Borglum’s first critical success. It was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1898. Lassoing Wild Horses is often considered the artist’s most ambitious and greatest work. While Borglum’s bronze is not the most iconic of the horse-and-rider bronzes of this era, it is the largest and most complex.

Alfred Jacob Miller

American, 1810–74

Shoshone Indians at a Mountain Lake (Lake Fremont)

Date not known

Oil paint on canvas

Funds from Erich Kohlberg by exchange, 1961.25

In 1837, Miller was hired by Sir William Drummond Stewart, a Scottish nobleman, to join his western expedition and record the group’s adventures. Miller made sketches of American Indians, witnessed an annual rendezvous of fur trappers, and became the first Anglo artist to depict the Rocky Mountains in his paintings—including this one, featuring what is today known as Lake Fremont in Wyoming.

Worthington Whittredge

American, 1820–1910

Foothills Colorado

About 1866

Oil paint on paper

Partial gift of the Houston Foundation in memory of M. Elliott Houston and funds from various donors by exchange, 1969.160

Unlike most artists of his day who tended to favor grandiose mountain views, Whittredge preferred the plains. “Whoever crossed the plains,” he said, “notwithstanding its herds of buffalo and flocks of antelope, its wild horses, deer and fleet rabbits, could hardly fail to be impressed with its vastness and silence and the appearance everywhere of an innocent, primitive existence.”

William Penhallow Henderson

American, 1877–1943

Little Sister (The Chaperone)

About 1916

Oil paint on canvas

Gift of Mrs. Edgar Rossin, 1974.16

This painting shows what was once common practice: a young woman accompanies an unmarried couple in order to head off any impropriety during their romantic walk. This painting has long been known as The Chaperone, but on the back of the painting a different title was recently discovered in what appears to be Henderson’s handwriting. This title, Little Sister, adds another dimension to the painting’s social dynamics.

Frederic Remington

American, 1861–1909

The Cheyenne



Funds from the William D. Hewit Charitable Annuity Trust, 1981.14

Frederic Remington was already well known as an illustrator and painter when he turned his hand to sculpting in the mid-1890s.

His first effort, The Broncho Buster (1895), became one of the most popular American bronzes. But The Cheyenne (1901), with its extraordinary action and unconventional treatment of equestrian subject matter, may be the finest bronze he ever produced. Remington long admired the Cheyenne people and frequently featured them in his art. This Indian subject he portrayed “burning the air,” as he said, in the midst of battle.

For more information about this artwork, including lesson plans for teachers and their students, visit the DAM Creativity Resource website.

Thomas Moran (American, 1837–1926), Mount of the Holy Cross, 1894. Watercolor on paper. Anonymous gift, 1981.16

This natural cross emblazoned on a soaring Colorado peak attracted a flood of pilgrims to the state during the late 1800s and early 1900s. “It is as if God has set His sign, His seal, His promise there—a beacon upon the very center and height of the Continent,” wrote journalist Samuel Bowles in 1869. In the century that’s passed since Moran painted it, the cross-shaped crevice has eroded and become less defined, but it’s still visible today.

Albert Bierstadt

American, 1830–1902

Wind River Country


Oil paint on canvas

The Charles H. Bayly Collection, 1987.47

In 1859, Albert Bierstadt made his first trip to the Rocky Mountains on a government expedition. Following this trip, he opened a studio in New York, where he drew from his sketches, photographs, specimens, and Indian artifacts to create large landscape paintings. Working with photographic source material in his studio may have contributed to Bierstadt’s convincing illusion of space. Looking at the mountains we can see clearly that some are close to our vantage point, while others are far away. The foreground is full of details—carefully rendered foliage, rocks, a hollow log. In his studio, Bierstadt drew from multiple field sketches and photos to compose a pleasing picture. The scene we see here is a composite view, not an individual scene that the artist witnessed. The Wind River Range is part of the Rocky Mountains, located in western Wyoming. Bierstadt identified the river here as the Sweetwater River and the prominent mountain as Fremont’s Peak, known today as Temple Peak. As one of America’s early artist-explorers, he was looking for personal adventure and hoping to establish his artistic “territory.”

Charles Marion Russell

American, 1864–1926

In the Enemy’s Country


Oil paint on canvas

Gift of the Magness Family in memory of Betsy Magness, 1991.751

Charles Russell himself acknowledged that this painting captured “The West that Has Passed,” a romantic representation of native life before Europeans arrived. He portrays a party of Northern Plains Indians on a scouting mission in another tribe’s territory. The setting sun spreads a quilt of color behind them as they advance alongside their horses. Their wariness—embodied in every aspect of their poses and expressions—heightens the sense of drama. The painting’s idealized narrative reflects Russell’s firm belief in the desirability of a life lived in harmony with nature.

Charles Deas

American, 1818–67

Long Jakes, the Rocky Mountain Man


Oil paint on canvas

Jointly owned by the Denver Art Museum and the American Museum of Western Art–The Anschutz Collection. Purchased in memory of Bob Magness with funds from 1999 Collectors' Choice, Sharon Magness, Mr. & Mrs. William D. Hewit, Carl & Lisa Williams, Estelle Rae Wolf - Flowe Foundation and the T. Edward and Tullah Hanley Collection by exchange, 1998.241

With this painting, Charles Deas established the mountain man, a truly iconic American character.

In a pose reminiscent of the traditional equestrian portrait of a hero, the mountain man turns in his saddle to look behind him. Although this fellow may hardly seem a hero, dressed as he is in the worn garb of a trapper and with his chapped red face and droopy horse, he was a hero in the national view. The trapper may even be a sort of self-portrait. Although Long Jakes and Deas do not share similar features, Deas was known for dressing in an eccentric, archaic style.

Keith Jacobshagen

American, born 1941

By June the Light Begins to Breathe


Oil paint on canvas

Funds from Contemporary Realism Group, 2000.146

Keith Jacobshagen is a keen observer of the prairie that surrounds his home in Lincoln, Nebraska. But his use of extremely low horizon lines and sky-filled canvases add an emotional dimension to his work.

“There are times when I read the paintings in the most practical way and I believe that they are simply about seeing the light falling across a space in the landscape in the late afternoon,” he says. But, he admits, “I also hope that the images go a step further into some kind of spiritual realm.”

N. C. Wyeth

American, 1882–1945


About 1916

Oil paint on canvas

William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen Collection, 2001.443

In the golden age of American illustration, the most widely circulated images featured high drama played out by epic-sized characters. Around this same time, the Old West was passing into the realm of history. Wyeth’s illustration of a saloon fight presents a larger-than-life vision of a bygone era, peopled with unlawful, unruly, and rough stereotypes.

E. Martin Hennings

American, 1886–1956

Rabbit Hunt

About 1935

Oil paint on canvas

William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen Collection, 2001.449

Like other classically trained artists who came West, Ernest Martin Hennings used his academic training to depict a newly discovered subject in American art—the land and people of New Mexico. Born in New Jersey, he graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago and later studied at the Royal Academy in Munich, Germany. In 1921 he settled in Taos.

There he adopted a sunny palette reflective of the locale and produced paintings that feature an art nouveau decorative elegance while focusing on an ordinary moment, such as the rabbit hunt here. Just as the scene is very specific, so too are the Indians, who are treated as individuals and not stereotypes. The man on horseback sports a cross-cultural outfit: a tennis sweater, cuffed shirt, and trousers combined with traditional long braids and moccasins.

Marsden Hartley

American, 1877–1943

New Mexico Recollection #6


Oil paint on canvas

William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen Collection, 2001.455

Marsden Hartley made this painting in Berlin, four years after his one and only visit to the Southwest. While he was living in Taos, he called it "the stupidest place I ever fell into"-although he did concede it had a "lovely landscape here and there." Marsden Hartley’s New Mexico Recollection #6 is one of twenty-five oils he painted after his visit to New Mexico in 1918.

A pioneer modernist, Hartley was born in Lewiston, Maine, in 1877. He became a member of Alfred Stieglitz’s cosmopolitan circle in 1909 following his first one-man show at Stieglitz’s celebrated 291 Gallery. In 1912, Hartley made his first of many trips to Europe, where he encountered and was influenced by cubism, fauvism and German expressionism. Throughout his life, Hartley’s constant need to move around led him to explore themes of permanence and spirituality in his landscapes.

Marsden Hartley visited Taos in 1918 at the invitation of Mabel Dodge, a wealthy art patroness whom he had met at Gertrude Stein’s salon in Paris. Although Hartley’s initial reaction was positive, he soon became ambivalent about Taos and Santa Fe. Unlike many of his contemporaries, who were excited about the artistic possibilities of the New Mexico landscape, Hartley found the environment made him anxious and increasingly uncomfortable. In addition, he felt isolated from the cultural community he had enjoyed in Europe and New York. Disenchanted with Taos and bored by the local artists, whom he found to be intolerant of modernist styles, Hartley left Taos for good in 1919. Upon returning to New York, Hartley began reworking his New Mexico theme in a series that would ultimately become the New Mexico Recollections, all of which were painted between 1922 and 1923 in Berlin after his return to Europe in 1921. In a letter to Stieglitz, Hartley expressed amusement four years later at being able to see New Mexico as he believed it really was.[1]

New Mexico Recollection #6 is typical of the linear and austere style Hartley used in all paintings in the series, in which he reduced the New Mexico landscape to elemental forms. Despite the rich coloration in New Mexico Recollection #6, the massive sculptural forms and consciously crude rendering create a somber, bleak and foreboding atmosphere. Like many of Hartley’s compositions, New Mexico Recollection #6 features mountains and other natural forms that exude power and permanence, a characteristic that some critics see as a response to the instability of his childhood and the constant change in artistic and cultural environments that came with a lifetime on the move.

Ernest Blumenschein

American, 1874–1960

Mountain Lake (Eagle Nest)


Oil paint on canvas

William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen Collection, 2001.458

Blumenschein was a member of the Taos Society of Artists, which was active between 1915 and 1927. He was aware of the latest trends in European modernist art and incorporated these elements into his work.

Although his painting is realistic, every feature in the landscape is reduced to its essential form, and the overall effect is one of rich pattern and color.

For more information about this artwork, including lesson plans for teachers and their students, visit the DAM Creativity Resource website.

Thomas Eakins

American, 1844–1916

Cowboy Singing


Oil paint on canvas

Jointly acquired in honor of Peter H. Hassrick by the Denver Art Museum and the American Museum of Western Art---The Anschutz Collection and by exchange from funds from 1999 Collectors' Choice, Sharon Magness, Mr. & Mrs. William D. Hewit, Carl & Lisa Williams, Estelle Rae Wolf - Flowe Foundation and the T. Edward and Tullah Hanley Collection, 2008.491

Although Eakins lived most of his life in Philadelphia and is not usually considered a western artist, he visited the Dakota Territory for two months in 1887. Made five years later, when Eakins was focusing on images of music and melancholy, this painting is probably a fond memory of that trip west. At that time, cowboy music was just beginning to be studied and revered as a viable part of America’s cultural legacy.


The Petrie Institute of Western American Art (PIWAA) governs the western American art collection, which encompasses two centuries of paintings, sculptures, and works on paper related to the West. Additionally, PIWAA promotes scholarship in the field through exhibitions, annual symposia, and publications.

During the Martin Building renovation project, the Western American Art galleries are closed. Please view select pieces from the Denver Art Museum’s Petrie Institute of Western American Art collection in the cross-departmental exhibition The Light Show.


Browse artworks from the western American art collection anytime. Check back often for additions and updates.


PIWAA holdings date from the early-1800s to the present and include an impressive mix of paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by renowned artists. The collection is particularly strong in bronze sculpture, artists affiliated with the Taos Society of Artists, and 20th century modernism.

News & Stories


PIWAA has an active publishing program. Western Passages, its signature scholarly series, includes topical essays on the art of the American West by curators and historians. These and other exhibition-related publications are distributed nationally and available for purchase in The Shop.

Mary Dailey Desmarais and Thomas Brent Smith, eds., Once Upon a Time . . . The Western: A New Frontier in Art and Film (Milan: Five Continents Editions, 2017)

Thomas Brent Smith, ed., A Place in the Sun: The Southwest Paintings of Walter Ufer and E. Martin Hennings (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2016)

Thomas Brent Smith and Thayer Tolles, eds., The American West in Bronze, 1850–1925 (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013)

Decades: An Expanded Context for Western American Art, 1900–1940. Vol. 9 of Western Passages (Denver Art Museum, 2014)

Thomas Brent Smith, ed., Rocky Mountain Majesty: The Paintings of Charles Partridge Adams (Denver Art Museum, 2013)

Thomas Brent Smith, ed., Elevating Western American Art: Developing an Institute in the Cultural Capital of the Rockies, Vol. 8 of Western Passages (Denver Art Museum, 2012)

Shaping the West: American Sculptors of the 19th Century, Vol. 7 of Western Passages (Denver Art Museum, 2010)

Charlie Russell and Friends, Denver Art Museum Western Passages, Vol. 6 of Western Passages (Denver Art Museum, 2010)

Joan Carpenter Troccoli, ed., The Masterworks of Charles M. Russell: A Retrospective of Paintings and Sculpture, Vol. 6 of The Charles M. Russell Center Series on Art and Photography of the American West (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009)

Carol Clark, Charles Deas and 1840s America, Vol. 4 of The Charles M. Russell Center Series on Art and Photography of the American West (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009)

Peter H. Hassrick and Elizabeth J. Cunningham, In Contemporary Rhythm: The Art of Ernest L. Blumenschein (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008)

Colorado: The Artist’s Muse, Vol. 5 of Western Passages (Denver Art Museum, 2008)

Heart of the West: New Painting and Sculpture of the American West, Vol. 4 of Western Passages (Denver Art Museum, 2007)

Redrawing Boundaries: Perspectives on Western American Art, Vol. 3 of Western Passages (Denver Art Museum, 2007)

Sweet on the West: How Candy Built a Colorado Treasure, Vol. 2 of Western Passages (Denver Art Museum, 2003)

West Point Points West, Vol. 1 of Western Passages (Denver Art Museum, 2002)

Joan Carpenter Troccoli, Painters and the American West: The Anschutz Collection (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000)


Current Staff

  • Thomas Brent Smith, Director and Curator
  • Jennifer R. Henneman, Associate Curator
  • Meg Erickson, Curatorial Assistant
  • Lauren Thompson, Interpretive Specialist
  • Valerie Hellstein, Publications and Programs Coordinator

Past Staff

  • Peter H. Hassrick, Director Emeritus, Director 2005-2009
  • Joan Carpenter Troccoli, Director 2001-2005, Senior Scholar 2005-2012
  • Ann Scarlett Daley, Associate Curator 2001–2008


Since its inception, the Denver Art Museum has collected and exhibited works of art related to the West. In 2001, after increased activity in the acquisition of western American art—including a significant gift from William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen—the Institute of Western American Art was established. In 2006, a financial gift from Cortlandt S. Dietler established exhibition space for the western American art collection in the Hamilton Building. In 2007, the newly endowed department was renamed the Petrie Institute of Western American Art following a financial gift from Tom and Jane Petrie. In 2013, gifts of artworks from Henry Roath substantially increased the quality and scope of the collection. These were supplemented by acquisitions from Dr. George C. and Catherine M. Peck in 2014. PIWAA is indebted to Jim and Lucy Wallace for helping to establish DAM Westerners, the department’s acquisitions group.


The Petrie Institute of Western American Art is pleased to announce its annual symposium, Natural Forces: Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington, on Wednesday, January 8, 2020.

For more information, please email

Past symposia include:

2019 Familiar Images: Icons of International Frontiers

2018 Beyond America’s Heartland: Regionalism and the Art of the American West

2017 Set in the West: Telling Tales in Art and Film

2016 Walter Ufer and E. Martin Hennings: An In-depth Look

2015 Western Character: Expressions of Identity and Place in Portraiture

2014 Journeys West

2013 Decades: An Expanded Context for Western American Art, 1900-1940

2012 Lest We Forget California: Artists in the Golden West

2011 A Distant View: European Perspectives on Western American Art

2010 Shaping the West: American Sculptors of the 19th Century

2009 Taos Traditions: Artists in an Enchanted Land

2008 Heart of the West: New Art/New Thinking

2007 Redrawing Boundaries: Perspectives on Western American Art