In the latest installment of our occasional conversations with Fort Worth newsmakers, Scott Winterrowd, director of the Sid Richardson Museum, spoke with arts and culture fellow Juan Salinas II about its new exhibit “Night & Day: Frederic Remington’s Final Decade,” which celebrates the museum’s 40-year history.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. For the unabridged version, please listen to the audio file attached to this article.
Juan Salinas II: So for someone that isn’t in the local art scene, what’s the museum about?
Scott Winterrowd: The collection was actually put together by Sid W. Richardson, who was an oilman. And he made a lot of money in oil in the 1930s. In the 1940s, he built a house down off of San Jose Island. He bought these paintings, and he lived with them both at his island home and then also he lived with them here in downtown Fort Worth at the Fort Worth Club.
Let me tell you more about the collection. It’s a collection of Western art. He collected more broadly when he first started collecting and was guided by a New York gallery dealer named Bertram Newhouse. He bought a lot of different Western artists.
Over time (he) became much more interested in the works of Frederic Remington and primarily in the works of Charles Marion Russell. He bought a lot of paintings by Russell in the end, so 52 works by Russell are in the collection. And 23 works by Remington, and then a handful of other American Western painters.
If you go
Time: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m
Date: The exhibit runs Sept. 24- April
Location: 309 Main St, Fort Worth, TX 76102
Salinas II: So what was his fixation on Western art?
Winterrowd: That’s interesting. Now a lot of the oilmen who were making their fortunes at that time bought Western paintings. If you go to the Norton art gallery in Shreveport, Louisiana, they have a really large collection of Remington paintings and then the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa has a really great collection of Western paintings. So it just seemed to be something that a lot of the people that made their money in oil followed this kind of Western spirit idea in the collecting that they did. Another collection that is featured in our current exhibition is three paintings from the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, which were the Hogg Brothers Collection of Remington paintings.
Salinas II: How would one categorize Western art?
Winterrowd: The painters that we have here, Remington and Russell, really created the genre of Western art. They created this kind of cast of characters and storytelling of the American West and really kind of made the cowboy into the symbol and the kind of icon that it is today.
When we think about these painters, they’re the ones that visualized Western stories. Remington was a New Yorker, but he traveled west. Charles Marion Russell was a cowboy (and) a night herder. He really knew the West because he lived most of his life in Montana. So the two of them really visualize the West and their vision of the West really became kind of the template for other Western painters to come as well as the Western movie makers and Western television. They began to kind of frame their scenes based around the works that they saw by Remington and Russell.
Salinas II: You have a new exhibit. When is the opening?
Winterrowd: It’s called “Night & Day: Frederic Remington’s Final Decade,” and it focuses on Remington’s work in the last 10 years of his life from 1900 to 1909.
Remington died very young at the age of 48, due to complications related to appendicitis. So his work was cut short, and there’s always speculation about what he would have done later, but as he was progressing in his final decade, he was trying to change the perception of his art as him being just an illustrator, but more being recognized as a fine artist. He adapted the techniques of his American impressionist colleagues, and transformed his art both in the way he painted on canvas and the color palette that he used.
Salinas II: Could you go into more detail on how his progression went?
Winterrowd: He had been known to do a lot of illustration work. So his body of work is around 3,000 works that he created in a very short time period from the late 1880s until 1909. He was making a lot of these works and they were kind of thinly painted, they’re not as textural and the color nuances aren’t there because, really, the works were made specifically for reproduction and magazines.
At the end of his life, he (was) really trying to attune to the color palette, and he writes about this a lot and talks about it a lot. What he was interested in was being recognized by the art world as a fine artist. So really trying to change the tone of being disregarded as an illustrator. If Remington lived today, he’d be fine, I think as an illustrator, but yeah in his own time, he wanted to be recognized for his artistic abilities and not only is he of course a great painter, he’s also a really well-known sculptor. So both of those things kind of go hand in hand in that transformation at the end of his career.
Salinas II: What’s different about (this new exhibit) compared to the (art that is) already there?
Winterrowd: As opposed to our regular collection, the new exhibit really examines just these two color-dominant palettes. One of the things that’s always been of interest in Remingtons work is his painting of night, ‘moonlights’ as he called them. We call them Nocturnes today. Those pictures have been examined quite a bit, but nobody’s really examined the day scenes that he created at the same time, side-by-side with the night scenes.
The idea for this show is to bring in additional works that he made in that time period, both to show the progression of his painting in this time and also to show the additional works. We have prints that were made of paintings that he had created, but then later destroyed by fire. Him trying to revise his work is very much seen in his diaries and other things where he was talking about how he thought some of his works were failures. He actually redid some of those compositions, and we have some of those on view in the show. It’s just interesting to kind of compare the works that he felt were not up to par anymore, and weren’t of the standard that he was trying to create.
Salinas II: Was it a failure to him or the rest of the art world?
Winterrowd: It was a failure to him because he was his own worst critic. He was very much trying to change the legacy of the art that would live beyond him.
Salinas II: That’s fair. At the museum, what’s the typical age demographic?
Winterrowd: Well, it’s a range because we do get a lot of school-aged kids that come in for tours in general. I’ve been seeing a lot of younger people to older people. Our audience, since we’re not in the Cultural District, is really focused on downtown foot traffic. So people that are down here in general, stop by and just visit the museum. We’re really (a) foot traffic museum. There’s a lot of people locally that know us and know the collection here and come back, but a lot of people don’t even know we’re down here. I don’t think they realize there’s a small art museum in the middle of downtown Fort Worth.
Salinas II: What are some challenges that you’ve faced as the director?
Winterrowd: Mostly COVID and the fact that we were shut down for 15 months during COVID. It’s been an interesting opportunity to change how we engage online.
Salinas II: What did you do?
Winterrowd: Having more programming that we do that virtual, a number of lectures, and then our regular programs that we do in-house. We recreated a digital platform, and the most important thing is that we created a gallery 360. So people could visit the museum without actually being in the museum
Salinas II: What is your favorite artwork here at the museum?
Winterrowd: It’s funny, I’ve been talking about Remington the whole time, but there’s a small painting. It’s one of the smallest paintings in our collection and it’s by Charles Marion Russell. It’s called “Grubpile,” and the subtitle of it is the evening pipe.
It’s an indigenous person who is smoking a pipe near a small little pond, and it’s a twilight scene. It’s just very calm and quiet. It’s a painting that just makes me think of a very personal experience that Russell must have had with that individual.
Salinas II: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Winterrowd: I just hope that people will come down and experience the exhibition. It’s a very dramatic exhibition with a lot of action scenes and these beautiful night scenes and I hope everyone will come down and just spend some time at the Sid Richardson Museum and get to know us here.