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.
See select modernist works from the western American art collection on view in the Dietler Gallery on level 2 in the Hamilton Building.
Additionally, 70 collection masterworks are on display alongside historical artifacts in Backstory: Western American Art in Context, a collaborative exhibition down the block at History Colorado Center, through February 11, 2018.
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
Join us for the symposium Beyond America’s Heartland: Regionalism and the Art of the American West on Thursday, January 4, 2018. More
Artist Sven Birger Sandzén, known as "the American Van Gogh," produced vibrant interpretations of Colorado. More
Get the scoop on all the interactive activities for kids and families at the Denver Art Museum this month. More
See a selection of paintings by early-twentieth century Taos artists including Victor Higgins, E. Martin Hennings, and Walter Ufer, as well as works by other American modernists including B. J. O. Nordfelt, Beatrice Mandelman, and Denver’s own Vance Kirkland. More
To commemorate Rocky Mountain National Park's centennial year in 2015, the Denver Art Museum saluted all the artists who have visited the region and documented its beauty. More
This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Some of the historic landscapes protected by this act are celebrated in the Denver Art Museum’s western art collection. More
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)
- Thomas Brent Smith, Director and Curator
- Jennifer R. Henneman, Assistant Curator
- Meg Erickson, Curatorial Assistant
- Julianne Maron, Publications and Programs Coordinator
- Lauren Thompson, Interpretive Specialist
- 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.
PIWAA announces its 12th annual symposium, Beyond America’s Heartland: Regionalism and the Art of the American West, coming January 4, 2018. Expanding upon the well-known artist triumvirate of Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, and Grant Wood, this year’s symposium focuses on regionalism and its impact on artists working in the West.
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For more information, please email email@example.com
Past symposia include:
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