Archive for Denver history

Two lively current exhibits, organized by History Colorado, complement a lavishly illustrated new book by Stan Kuba (1) and focus attention on the 1928 founding of the Denver Artists’ Guild. The exhibits, featuring the work of many of the 52 founding members, are at the Byers-Evans House Museum and the Kirkland Museum. They will be on view through September 26 and are well worth a visit!

Courtesy http://coloradoartistsguild.org

Courtesy http://coloradoartistsguild.org

The response of far too many people, on becoming aware of these events, is, “What is the Denver Artists’ Guild? I never heard of it?” Indeed, an article in Westword (June 26, 2015) proclaimed that that these exhibits and the book bring “AN OBSCURE CHAPTER OF LOCAL ART HISTORY TO LIFE.”

If you do not feel as well informed as you would like to be about the Denver Artists’ Guild, now is the perfect time to remedy this deficiency and have a good time in the process. Go see the two exhibits, then spend a few evenings reading the new book on the Guild and marveling at its profuse and handsome illustrations – reproductions of the work of many of the 52 founders of the Denver Artists’ Guild.

Foreword by Hugh Grant (2)
Hugh Grant rightly points out, in his brief and informative foreword, that a 2009 exhibit at the Denver Public Library was the effective forerunner to these current events about the Guild. Stimulated by the research of Deborah Wadsworth, a tireless volunteer in the Western History Department of the DPL, the exhibit Fifty-Two Originals featured work by many of the 52 founders of the Denver Artists Guild. Hugh Grant gave a lecture about the guild at the Denver University School of Art and Art History, “I think practically all of my listeners…were struck by the scope and quality of the 106 works of art representing 42 artists. Because all exhibitions must end, a number of us determined to do something lasting to preserve the history of the guild. This book is the result.”

Introduction by Cynthia Durham Jennings
Information about the Guild, and about the lives and work of the 52 founding Guild members, would be infinitely less complete without the many years of patient research done by Cynthia Durham Jennings. Her research centered at first on her father, Clarence Durham, a major founding member and five-term president of the group. After his death in 1994, Cynthia began looking into his background and his long-standing membership in the Guild, with a view to “writing a book about him to help preserve his legacy.” (3)

As Durham Jennings’ research efforts became more widely known, several individuals seeking information about other founding members approached her. When she realized how little was known about the Guild and its members, she resolved to widen the scope of her project. She recruited two colleagues to help her in what proved to be a time-consuming and difficult task – gathering information about as many of the 52 founding members as was humanly possible. Many of the original members had died or moved away from Denver, some of the women had remarried and acquired new names. On the positive side, family members, when traced, often provided photographs, biographies, and locations of artwork that was photographed. All possible sources, from old scrapbooks kept by Guild members to the Internet, were canvassed.

Rendering of new Kirkland Museum courtesy www.kirklandmuseum.org

Rendering of new Kirkland Museum courtesy www.kirklandmuseum.org

Using the material so gathered, Stan Cuba, Associate Curator of the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art, “prepared the members’ biographical entries, helped with the final selection of color reproductions and captioned them, and wrote an extensive historical overview, introducing readers to the general subject of the guild and documenting the heretofore little-known story of its fifty-two founding members.”

Cuba’s Story of the Denver Artists Guild
The Denver Artists Guild – renamed the Colorado Artists’ Guild in 1990 to better describe its area of activity – is the second oldest artists’ organization in Colorado. The oldest is the Denver Art Museum, which had its origins in the Denver Artists’ Club, founded in 1893. The Guild’s original membership included many of the best-known Colorado artists of the day, including Dean Babcock, Albert Bancroft, Donald and Rosa Bear, Frederic Douglas, Clarence Durham, Anne Evans, Gladys Caldwell Fisher, Laura Gilpin, Elsie Haynes, Marion Hendrie, Vance Kirkland, Waldo Love, Albert Olson, Paschal Quackenbush, Anne Van Briggle Ritter, Arnold and Louise Ronnebeck, Paul St.Gaudens, Elisabeth Spalding, David Spivak, John E. Thompson, Allen Tupper True and Frank Vavra.

Artists’ Club of Denver, Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

Artists’ Club of Denver, Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

The mission of the new 1928 organization, as described in the Rocky Mountain News (June 10, 1928) on the occasion of the opening of the Guild’s first exhibit of members’ work, was “To promote a spirit of professional cooperation and maintain a high standard of craftsmanship among the artists of Denver and vicinity, (and) to bring to the attention of the public representative works of these artists in painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics and the graphic arts (etching, lithography, etc.)”

Development of the Denver Art Museum
In his chapter on the history of the Guild, Cuba tells the story of the evolution of both the Denver Artists Guild the Denver Art Museum. He describes how local Colorado artists were active in the DAM’s programs and played an essential role in its development. But he also makes clear that, as perhaps an inevitable result of the widening sphere of the DAM’s activities, there came a time when it could no longer fulfill the needed function of nurturing and sustaining local artists.

Originally the 1893 Denver Artists Club was an organization of Colorado artists dedicated both to increasing public awareness of the offerings of local artists, and to educating the public about developments in the wider world of art – nationally and internationally. The group sponsored annual juried exhibits, not only of members’ work, but also featuring well-known artists from the East and Midwest. From the beginning, the Club sought Associate Members to augment its financial resources and to help carry out its mission in the wider Denver community. In 1917, feeling that it’s original name was too narrow as a description of its activities, it was renamed the Denver Art Association.

The organization began to collect the beginnings of a permanent art collection, which, until 1922, had to be displayed in galleries of the Museum of Natural History in City Park. In that year, a huge boost in the fortunes of the Art Association came with the donation to it of Chappell House, a large mansion at 1300 Logan. Though falling short of the Art Association’s ultimate objective – a spacious museum on the new Civic Center – Chappell House was an invaluable asset, the DAM’s first real home. In 1923, the Denver Art Association became the Denver Art Museum. It began a long journey, not only to secure its coveted place on the Civic Center, but also to become the official “art arm” of the City and County of Denver. (4)

Chappell House, courtesy http://coloradoartistsguild.org

Chappell House, courtesy http://coloradoartistsguild.org

A Need that could no longer be Ignored: The Story of the Denver Artists’ Guild
And so, by 1928, the artists of the growing Denver area “felt the need for a successor organization to the Denver Art Association and the Denver Artists Club. They desired the backing of a formally constituted, democratically oriented group open to all Denver-area artists capable of sponsoring their own traveling and annual exhibitions. They also sought to encourage among the city’s artists the same mutual support and enthusiasm they had experienced as members of these two predecessor art groups through monthly meetings and lectures, sketching trips, dinners, and other social events.” (5)

Albert Bancroft, a Colorado native and a well-known Denver artist, was the leader in the 1928 organization of the Denver Artists Guild, ably assisted by two other prominent Denver artists, Dean Babcock and David Spivak. According to Stan Cuba, “Most of Denver’s artists responded to Bancroft’s invitation to join the guild, initially paying annual dues of $15 per person – not an inconsiderable sum at that time. However, when the Great Depression began to negatively impact artists’ incomes, dues dropped to only $3 per year.” (6)

H. David Spivak, 1893 – 1932. DENVER ROOFTOPS. oil on panel Courtesy, http://coloradoartistsguild.org/home/history/

H. David Spivak, 1893 – 1932. DENVER ROOFTOPS. oil on panel
Courtesy, http://coloradoartistsguild.org/home/history/

Cuba goes on to describe in detail the structure of the new organization, its lively program of activities for members: weekly Guild meetings, monthly dinner meetings with substantial and informative programs offered by members, sketching trips, sessions of constructive criticism of current members’ works. The Guild, in addition to its artist members, “solicited twenty-two patron members. Their yearly dues of $20 provided the fledgling group with additional capital for its organizational activities, particularly promoting the artist members by funding the Guild’s annual exhibitions…

In the next section of his 37-(large) page essay on THE DENVER ARTISTS GUILD, Its Founding, Activities and Legacy, Cuba describes the work of the Guild and its members through the First World War and the explosion of unconventional modes of artistic expression, the Great Depression, and World Ward II. He describes the locations where the work of many members during this time, in murals, sculpture and paintings, can still be seen – from the State Capitol to the Civic Center, and to restorations of commercial buildings like the newly remodeled former Colorado National Bank Building complete with its original murals. Also he talks of the many art projects executed under the aegis of the Federal Government during the Depression era, in post offices and other public buildings.

1948: A Split in the Artists Guild
Cuba describes the Colorado artists’ version of a split that had been developing locally and nationally, since the beginning of the twentieth century, between traditional painters and those exploring ever more adventurous modes of artistic expression. In Denver, the actual split started with Vance Kirkland, then an important figure on the Denver art scene and the Director of the Denver University School of Art. Vance infuriated Rocky Mountain News reporter Lee Casey with a public comment to the effect that “people who don’t know anything about art should keep quiet.” (7)

Casey responded, in a Rocky Mountain News column, “Painting, as I view it, ought to bear at least some resemblance to what it is supposed to represent, and I can’t see that surrealistic paintings – or, for that matter, the paintings of any other special school since Picasso and Cezanne botched things up – do that… We are, I am confident, advancing beyond the stage when the most-applauded painting might just as well be hung wrong end up. True art is timeless, and within a few years an original Picasso or Cezanne will be valued mainly for the frame. ”

At this point, artist William Sanderson entered the fray. Sanderson was a talented artist and an eloquent teacher at the DU School of Art. He was an active member of the Artists Guild, though not a founding one. His response to Lee Casey was titled “Pioneers in Art.” He wrote, “If the artist (in our society) has the temerity to deviate from the phony formula of “tourist painting,” he is labeled a fake, a zany and generally a moral leper…This part of the country is proud of its pioneer tradition…the term pioneer is not confined to men who rode in covered wagons. Many artists are still trekking across the arid wastes of our intellectual deserts. They have a vision and they hope it is not a mirage. In the meantime, instead of being scalped, the modern artists could use a helping hand once in a while.” (8)

As the Guild’s vice-president and program chairman, Sanderson was experiencing the group’s “underlying conservatism and some members’ disdain for modern art.” Along with Sanderson, four other members seceded from the Guild to join a new group, Fifteen Colorado Artists, which was composed mainly of faculty members from Denver University’s School of Art.

The Guild leadership was a first afraid that the split would permanently fracture the comradeship of Colorado artists. But, in Cuba’s words, “All parties managed to weather the storm. In 1948 both groups displayed simultaneously in adjoining galleries at Chappell House…The Denver Monitor reported that both shows generated unprecedented public interest, confronting their viewers with the controversial questions of modern versus traditional art.” Cuba suggests that in one way the split benefited the Guild: it gained a new sense of unity it had previously lacked, due to “growing controversy within its ranks.”

Over the years, the animosity between Guild and the Fifteen Colorado Artists softened. The Guild began to feature guest artists in its annual shows whose work was far less conservative than that of most of the Guild members. And in 1963, William Sanderson was invited to be one of the jurors for the Guild’s annual exhibition.

Summary: The Contributions of the Founding Members of the Denver Artists’ Guild
It was something of a shock to read the first words of Cuba’s final paragraph in this section of the book: “Although all of the organization’s founding members are deceased…” A shock because I personally knew a number of those members, so this statement is quite a reminder that I have indeed “grown old!”

Cuba concludes by paying a final tribute to these artists, “the art they created and their multi-faceted cultural pursuits remain an integral part of the cultural heritage of Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West.” (9)

Notes

1. THE DENVER ARTISTS GUILD: ITS FOUNDING MEMBERS. An Illustrated History by Stan Cuba. Foreword by Hugh Grant. Introduction and Acknowledgements by Cynthia Durham Jennings. Published by History Colorado in 2015.
2. Hugh Grant, Founding Director and Curator, Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art, Denver.
3. Cynthia Durham Jennings, Introduction and Acknowledgements, p. 10
4. This “journey” is described in my book, Anne Evans, A Pioneer in Colorado’s Cultural Development: THE THINGS THAT LAST WHEN GOLD IS GONE, Barbara Edwards Sternberg with Jennifer Boone and Evelyn Waldron.
5. Stan Cuba, op cit, p. 22
6. Stan Cuba, p. 24
7. Stan Cuba, p. 46
8. Stan Cuba, p. 46-7
9. Stan Cuba, p. 49

GROUND BREAKING SOON FOR NEW BUILDING FOR “DENVER’S MOST INTERESTING MUSEUM”
On January 27, 2014, the Kirkland Museum announced that it was moving from its historic site at 1311 Pearl Street to a new location at 12th and Bannock. Its new site will put it squarely in Denver’s Golden Triangle Museum District, near the Denver Art and Clyfford Still Museums. Groundbreaking will take place very soon, but before I describe briefly the whys and wherefores of this major new art project, I would like to sketch the character and history of the Kirkland Museum.

THE “QUIRKY KIRKLAND”
An article in the April 27, 2008 issue of the Denver Post asked the question, “Is this Denver’s most interesting Museum?” The subject was what the article’s author, Kyle MacMillan called the “quirky Kirkland Museum.”

WHAT’S UNIQUE ABOUT THE KIRKLAND?
According to MacMillan, the Kirkland, when measured by today’s museum standards emphasizing, “the slick, streamlined and structured, is hopelessly out of step. It happily takes a kind of Victorian approach to showing its collections, however modern or contemporary the objects themselves might be.”

IMAGINING THE REACTIONS OF CONTEMPORARY MUSEUM CURATORS -AS WELL AS THOSE OF MUCH OF THE GENERAL PUBLIC – TO THE KIRKLAND’S DISPLAYS!
They “probably shudder…because of the sheer plethora of objects packed into every conceivable cranny and the seeming disorder of it all…Painting, sculpture, furniture, ceramics, a hodge-podge of now-classic, mass-produced consumer goods from the past hundred years or so; it’s a jarring, if adventurous, place to spend an afternoon.”

“Yet”, says Macmillan, “it all works.” Partly, he guesses, this is because Hugh Grant, the Founding Director and Curator of the Kirkland Museum, “is not a museum director by training. So there is a refreshingly unbridled, free-form approach to everything the Kirkland does.”

WHAT EXACTLY IS THE KIRKLAND MUSEUM?

Vance Kirkland, Near Evans Ranch, 1935 Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, Denver.

Vance Kirkland, Near Evans Ranch, 1935 Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, Denver.

According to the museum’s description of itself, it is “An eclectic assemblage of art, furniture, glassware and other objects, centered on the work and collections of Vance Kirkland (1904-1981) best known for his abstract paintings.”

A BIT OF HISTORY
Kirkland’s original studio, part of the Museum, was built by artist Henry Read and is the second oldest commercial art building in Colorado. It is second only to the Van Briggle Pottery in Colorado Springs. Read was one of the 13 founders of the Denver Artists’ Club in 1893 – the organization that eventually metamorphosed into the Denver Art Museum. The 1911 building was designed in an Arts and Crafts style and served for many years as Read’s own Students’ School of Art.

THE UNIVERSITY OF DENVER’S DEPARTMENT OF ART
In the early 1890’s, the University of Denver had a flourishing Department of Art, but between the late 1890’s and 1929, it appears to have gone into eclipse. In 1929, as a result of a rigorous evaluation of all the University’s offerings by a committee headed by Henry Suzzalo, its Report made tough and wide-ranging recommendations for change. One proposal was to add three new new departments – social work, librarianship and fine arts.

ANNE EVANS AND VANCE KIRKLAND
Anne Evans, with her lifelong commitment both to Denver University and to the flourishing of the arts in Denver, was an enthusiastic supporter of the revival of a Department of Art – and probably the source of the suggestion that an appropriate head start should be the acquisition by DU of an existing School of Art, the Chappell School. Frederick Hunter, Chancellor of the University, and Henry Suzzalo, author of the ground-breaking Report, traveled to Chicago to interview a promising candidate to head up the new Art Department. This was Vance Kirkland, who was teaching at the Cleveland School of art and widely considered to be a promising young painter.

Vance Kirkland, Evans Ranch Landscape, 1946 Jan Mayer Collection

Vance Kirkland, Evans Ranch Landscape, 1946 Jan Mayer Collection

Kirkland came from Ohio to Denver and in 1929 became head of the new Department. Anne Evans undoubtedly welcomed the arrival of the energetic, creative new figure on Denver’s art scene. But the cordial connection between them was severed in 1932, when Vance made a drastic break from Denver University. This was over D.U.’s refusal to accredit a B.A. degree in art studies alone, which Vance felt to be a betrayal of what he was promised. He left the University, leased Henry Read’s property (which he later bought), and opened the Kirkland School of Art – taking most of his DU students with him. Kirkland arranged for accreditation of his classes by the University of Colorado Extension Center in Denver, thus initiating the art program at what is now UCD – the University of Colorado at Denver.

The Art Department at DU continued, though weakened by Vance’s defection. Anne Evans was appointed to a three-member Advisory Committee to the Department, a post in which she served until her death in 1941.

A MOVING RECONCILIATION
I was touched by Hugh Grant’s memory of a conversation he had with Vance Kirkland. Like everyone who knew Anne Evans well, Vance was aware, towards the end of 1940, that her days were numbered. He made a decision to visit her. He wanted to tell her how much he appreciated all she had done for the arts and for artists in Denver, and especially how much he admired her incredible efforts to save the old Central City Opera House and establish the summer Festival there. He told Hugh Grant that, as he took Anne’s hand, they both “teared up.” There was a genuine healing of their broken relationship.

VANCE KIRKLAND RETURNS TO DU
Anne Evans died early in 1941. The DU Department of Art continued to operate, though hardly to flourish. In 1946 the Chancellor of the University was able to offer Vance Kirkland satisfactory terms to persuade him to return as head of the Art Department, bringing back to DU his Kirkland Art School students.

Artist Vance Kirkland Director of the D.U. Department of Art. Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Arts Denver

Artist Vance Kirkland Director of the D.U. Department of Art. Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Arts Denver

When my husband and I arrived at the University of Denver Campus in the fall of 1947, we were introduced to Vance and his wife Anne. It was apparent that Vance was heading up a lively and very successful Department.

My husband, Gene Sternberg, had been appointed Associate Professor of Design at the brand-new School of Architecture and Planning. He invested his utmost energies in building up the School – as did the rest of a remarkable faculty. But alas, it was not enough. Denver University had done once again what it did so often in the past – founded an expensive professional program that it did not have the resources to support on a long term basis. The dynamic Director of the school, Carl Feiss, saw the handwriting on the wall and accepted a position at another, more stable, architectural school. Denver University asked Vance Kirkland to step in and take on the leadership position at the School of Architecture, in addition to his duties as head of the Art Department. It was only a matter of time until the School of Architecture and Planning closed its doors – in 1952.

KIRKLAND RETIRES – TO BECOME A FULL-TIME ARTIST
Vance Kirkland continued his leadership role at the growing Denver University Department of Art until his retirement in 1969, all the while continuing his constantly evolving career as a painter and using the 1311 Pearl Street facilities as his studio. After his “retirement,” until his death in 1981, he simply devoted all his energies to painting, constantly creating new ways of expressing what “his mind could see.” Over his lifetime as a painter, Kirkland moved through five distinct styles of expression.

Vance’s wife, Anne, died 1n 1970. Vance soldiered on, greatly helped by the efforts of a young friend, the son of long-time friends and supporters of Vance’s work. This was Hugh Grant, whom Vance eventually nominated as executor of his estate. In 1996, Grant established the Vance Kirkland Foundation to preserve Kirkland’s legacy.

KIRKLAND MUSEUM OF FINE AND DECORATIVE ART OPENS ITS DOORS IN 2003
Hugh Grant became the Founding Director of the new Museum, located in Kirkland’s studio and adjunct quarters at 1311 Pearl Street. The unique Museum showcases not only more than 1,000 works by Kirkland, but also the works of contemporary Colorado artists and craftsmen, and a growing assortment, based on Vance Kirkland’s own collection, of “decorative works, many from the Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods, mostly from 1970 through 1980.”

ABOUT HUGH GRANT
For his activities as Director of the Kirkland Museum the multi-talented Hugh Grant has received many awards. These include the 2015 Citizens of the Arts Award from the Fine Arts Foundation, the 2009 Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Award for Contributions in the Field of Arts and Humanities, the 2000 Historic Denver-Ann Love Award for Historic Preservation and the 1999 Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. Grant also received more than a dozen awards for his role as Executive Director of three art documentaries aired on PBS stations. The PBS show, Antiques roadshow, was taped at the Kirkland for two days in July, 2009.

Grant studied for two years at Tufts University and completed his B.A. at Colorado State University in1967. In 2003, he received an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Denver. (Information from the Kirkland Museum’s Profile.)

Working through the Kirkland Foundation, Grant has built on Vance Kirkland’s collection of Colorado and Regional Art, a collection which now includes over 650 work by more than 200 artists. He has also expanded Vance’s own collection of International Decorative Art to what is now recognized as one of the most important such displays in North America. The collection concentrates on work from approx. 1875 to c. 1900. (Information in this section from the Kirkland Museum’s Profile of Grant.)

ADVANTAGES OF NEW SITE FOR THE KIRKLAND MUSEUM
There are three huge advantages of the new site over the existing one.

First is the factor of exposure. Charming as the 1311 Pearl St, location is, it is out of the mainstream of cultural traffic. The site at 12th and Bannock will put the Kirkland right into the lively circle of central Denver cultural venues – the History Museum, the central Denver Public Library, the Byers Evans House Museum, the buildings comprising the Denver Art Museum, and the Clyfford Still Museum. The Kirkland Museum, which already attracts an unexpectedly high volume of visitors, will see a great increase in numbers.

Second is the always important matter of parking, which is distinctly limited in the current location. The Museum was fortunate to have the resources to purchase a 26,000 square-foot space for parking, adjacent to the new Museum site.

And last, but by no means least, the new structure will double the size of the existing gallery space at the Pearl Street location. According to one report, the Museum will have “19,000 square feet to show off its collection of 15,000 objects by such names as Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry, Andy Warhol, Eero Saarinen, Philip Johnson and Mies Van der Rohe.”
(“Move to new digs a big deal for Denver’s Kirkland Museum”, article in Denver Post, 1/27/2014.)

New Kirkland Museum

The new Kirkland Museum from kirklandmuseum.org

CHAMBERS FAMILY FUND – MAJOR SOURCE OF FUNDING FOR NEW MUSEUM
The Chambers Family Fund, headed by Hugh Grant’s wife, Merle Chambers, will supply the funding for the new Museum. The Fund is well-known in Colorado as a generous donor to museums, theaters and performing companies throughout the state. It was a major contributor to the Ellie Caulkins Opera House and the Clyfford Still Museum.

DESIGN OF NEW KIRKLAND MUSEUM QUARTERS
The new building will be designed by Olson Kundig Architects, a Seattle firm with what Denver Post Fine Arts Critic Ray Mark Rinaldi describes as “a distinguished resume of residential and civic projects.” (“Move to new digs a big deal for Denver’s Kirkland Museum” article in Denver Post 1/27/2014.)

Important for lovers of the existing Kirkland Museum is the news that the new building will incorporate Kirkland’s entire studio, “bricks and all,” into the new building. This contains the structure where Vance managed to hover above his laborious “dot paintings,” and work on them for hours, supported by an ingenious system of straps.

With two of my daughters, I finally made it to the new Renaissance Hotel in downtown Denver – and it was well worth the effort. The old Colorado National Bank has been handsomely brought into a 21st century role, and in the process its unique Allen True murals have been honored and preserved.

Barbara Sternberg at Renaissance

RESCUING MURALIST ALLEN TRUE FROM OBLIVION
Like so many early pioneers in Denver’s cultural history, muralist Allen True had been mostly forgotten when Jim and Maggie Barrett bought his home and studio in Denver. They decided to acquaint themselves with True’s life and work. As a result of their extensive research, their travels to meet some of his descendants, and their discoveries about his murals in State Capitols and commercial buildings throughout the U. S., an impressive 3-location exhibit of True’s works was staged in Denver in October, 2009.The locations included galleries in: the Denver Public Library Western History Department, the Denver Art Museum and History Colorado. The Barretts also stimulated the making of a PBS documentary, “An American Artist”, about True’s life and work, and were involved in its production. The reputation of Allen Tupper True was resurrected – rescued from obscurity.

FIRST ALLEN TRUE BIOGRAPHY
Publication of “Allen Tupper True: An American Artist” in 2009, simultaneously with these other events, contributed greatly to this renewed public recognition of True’s achievements. “This first definitive biography of the Colorado artist Allen Tupper True (1881-1955) was written by True’s eldest daughter, Jere True and her daughter, Victoria Tupper Kirby. It relies on letters, diaries, and contemporary news accounts as well as family history to describe his artistic evolution from illustrator to easel painter to muralist. The lavish illustrations include most of True’s murals (both extant and destroyed), a selection of his major easel paintings, as well as some of his sketches and cartoons and Indian-inspired designs.” (Visit allentuppertrueanamericanartist.com) Copies of the original hard cover book sell on Amazon for the astounding price of “from $2,904 up.” (The paperback sells for $18.03 and up.)

THE LOVELY OLD GIRL COMES ALIVE!
ceiling“The Lovely Old Girl Comes Alive!” was the reaction of Joan True McGibben, Allen True’s granddaughter, to the opening of the Renaissance Hotel. She said that “it was with utter joy that I walked into her lobby filled with people, gleaming marble and my grandfather Allen Tupper True’s murals alive again in vivid color and eliciting excitement and respect from the crowd.” (Visit allentuppertrueanamericanartist.com)

ANNE EVANS AND ALLEN TRUE
Anne Evans played a quiet but significant role in True’s career. She was his first patron, commissioning a painting from him to hang over the fireplace in her mountain home of the Evans Ranch. For this she apparently paid $500, a considerable sum in those days. She also significantly involved him in the ambitious project to salvage the Central City Opera House and develop an ongoing summer festival. True was appointed to oversee the restoration of the Opera House. To be able to devote the necessary time to this, he moved his family to live in Central City.

Allen True MuralTHE MURALS IN THE RENAISSANCE HOTEL
The Renaissance Hotel offers to the visitor a fascinating reprint of a 1923 booklet, Indian Memories, in which Allen True talks about his murals. “The Indian in mural decoration has usually been depicted as surrendering to the Whites, making treaties with the Whites or fighting the Whites. Seldom if ever has he been accorded the dignity of standing alone on his own intrinsic worth or beauty.” True goes on to describe an aspect of his thinking about the current status of the Indian – an aspect which was also predominant in Anne Evans’ attitude to the pueblo tribes of New Mexico, for whose values and ways of life she had so much appreciation. True says that, “The method of presentation (of the murals) is through a series of retrospective visions – the Indian dreaming of his vanished glory.” The attitude was not only that tribal values could not survive, but also, curiously, that the Indians were actually disappearing. Perhaps, given the huge toll that Western diseases were taking, the relentless wars, and their increasingly being exiled to inhospitable places, the expectation may have seemed reasonable.

In her paper about the Hopi tribe, Anne Evans wrote, “I would advise all of you most strongly to make a pilgrimage while you can yet get to this fountainhead, for it can’t last very long. The people are dying out, they are not very robust and our method of civilizing them is apparently quite disastrous even to their bodies.” (Theosophical Quarterly pages 309-315, April 1912)

Jim Barrett pointed out that True and Anne Evans had in common a passionate interest in the well-being and the accomplishments of American Indians. Allen True tried, through his work, to persuade America to adopt – as their own national symbology – the beautiful and original design motifs of American Indians rather than those of European origin. Anne Evans took a deep and personal interest in the work of promising young Indian artists in New Mexico, helping to set up artistic training that would encourage them to use their own tribal motifs in their modern work.

ABOUT THE NEW RENAISSANCE HOTEL
In the May 15, 2014 announcement of the opening of the new Hotel, Renaissance Hotels said “one of Denver’s most iconic structures, the historic Colorado National Bank Building, has reopened its doors as the new 230-room Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center.” There followed a useful brief account of the building’s history.

“Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Colorado National Bank Building was designed in 1915 by famed Denver architects, William and Arthur Fisher. Originally erected as a four-story building on the corner of 17th and Champa Streets, the area was then deemed the ‘Wall Street of the Rockies.’ The building’s neo-classical, Greek revival architecture is highlighted through its towering white exterior columns and walls, created with marble from the Colorado Yule Marble Company, he same marble used to build the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Large monogrammed doors open to the three-story atrium, constructed with marble flooring, ornate bronze accents and the most secure vaults in existence at the time – details that remain as part of the hotel’s design experience.”

Vaultroom_Renaissance_HotelThe Hotel offers a variety of experiences to the visitor. While I was a little ambivalent about the furnishings decor of the huge atrium, I greatly admired its provision of intimate spaces in which small groups can sit and visit in comfort. The decision to use the vaults, their huge doors expressing fine industrial craftsmanship. as private dining rooms, is creative. There is an engaging history wall, with a detailed explanation of True’s murals “as well as artifacts, mementos, architectural imagery and photos from the bank’s storied past.” A complimentary walking tour available by smartphone gives information about the building’s art work – both the historic murals and a new collection of contemporary work by emerging Colorado artists. It also talks about about the “hotel’s unique culinary offerings.” These include “cocktails and dishes available onsite that use local ingredients or spirits.” We settled for a satisfying breakfast, but are motivated to head back there soon for an interesting lunch or dinner.

All images courtesy of Francesca Starr

Comments (4)

Amid all its recent coverage of the rebirth of Denver’s Union Station, with its “$54 million addition of “a hotel, shops, restaurants and bars” (1), the Denver Post made a little excursion into our city’s early history. They reminded readers that, more than a century before the 1980’s, when the city “was choking on a brown cloud of pollution and struggling with a decaying downtown and a sputtering economy,”(2) a gleeful leader in a rival city had pronounced Denver “too dead to bury.”(3)

The year was 1865, and Denver’s leaders had lost the battle to have the transcontinental railroad routed over the mountains and through their city. The Union Pacific Railroad understandably took the easier course through Cheyenne, Wyoming. Denver’s economy, already adversely affected by the Civil War and the stagnation of gold mining, plunged into what could have been a death spiral. Population declined, business dwindled. The dire economic times forced the Colorado Seminary, forerunner of the University of Denver – which had opened with high hopes in 1864 – to close its doors.

Denver - Union StationThe city’s economic turnaround was largely due to the stubborn and persistent efforts of one man, John Evans. At the time, Evans was embroiled in his own serious troubles following the October,1864 Sand Creek Massacre, the issue over which he lost his position as Colorado’s Territorial Governor. Nevertheless, when “a representative of the Union Pacific came to Denver…in 1867 to suggest that the businessmen of Denver should form a railroad company and build a line to Cheyenne with help from the Union Pacific, there was an immediate response from men like David Moffat, John Evans and William Byers.”(4)

In my book, I describe the almost superhuman efforts of John Evans to assure the success of this venture, involving “an overwhelming series of financial organizations and reorganizations, contracts with construction companies, and congressional lobbying to secure land grants. At one point, with no prospects and construction at a complete standstill, Evans resigned as president of the board of directors and signed a contract to build the railroad and pay off its debts. At the beginning of 1870, Evans again became President of the Denver Pacific Railroad, and was on hand at the Denver Depot. when the tracks finally reached the city on June 23, 1870.“(5)

The first incarnation of the Denver Union Station opened in 1881 – described as an Italianate structure with two stories and an 180-foot tower. The center section burned in 1894, and the entire structure was razed in 1914 to make room for the new neoclassical station which opened in 1917.


1 Jaffe, Mark, “Denver’s renovated Union Station has been a 30-year barn-raising,” Denver Post, Business Section, pg 1 Sunday, July 13, 2014.
2 Ibid
3 Ibid
4 Sternberg, Barbara E. with Jennifer Boone and Evelyn Waldron. Anne Evans – A Pioneer in Colorado’s Cultural History: THE THINGS THAT LAST WHEN GOLD IS GONE. Evergreen: Buffalo Park Press with Center for Colorado and the West Auraria Library. 2011. pg 77.
5 Ibid. pp 77-78

As I enjoyed the celebrations of the holiday season, I remembered one aspect of Anne Evans’ personality, which I have not yet had an opportunity to “blog” about. This was her incredible zest for life. Spending any time as her guest was, by all accounts, a rare and enjoyable experience.

Anne in front of her cabin fireplace. Painting by Allen True, The Trappers (above), Courtesy Margaret E. Hayden

Anne in front of her cabin fireplace. Painting by Allen True, The Trappers (above), Courtesy Margaret E. Hayden

    • After a few day’s stay at Anne Evans’ mountain home, one guest wrote on behalf of a small group, The hospitality of your friendly home quite overwhelmed us all…Dr. Steiner said ‘in some homes one sees only wealth and material plenty, but In Miss Evans’ home one sees love and a great spirit.‘ I(p. 345)

 

    • In the research about her life, I found several accounts of her idea of hosting children as guests at her home on the Evans Ranch and quoted my favorite: A young niece and nephew, aged 11 and 13, were sent to spend a summer on the ranch with their Great Aunt. They were interviewed. Wide-eyed and apprehensive, they were told that one rule and one rule only must be obeyed. They trembled. “You must have a good time! (p. 346)

 

  • Anne Evans enjoyed the creative effort of devising plays and pageantry, both as part of the elaborate summer life up on the Evans Ranch, and as a participant in social and artistic activities in Denver. One such occasion was vividly described by Miriam Washburn Adams, remembering the time she was an art student from Colorado Springs, taking classes in the Denver Atelier headed by architect Burnham Hoyt, a longtime friend of Anne Evans. (pp. 356-8)
Anne Evans cabin staircase, Courtesy Margaret E. Hayden

Anne Evans cabin staircase, Courtesy Margaret E. Hayden

Miss Anne told Burnie she had written a medieval play she wanted acted on the stairway in her Mt. Evans home. She wanted ten members of the Atelier to come up Friday and give the play Sunday evening. Burnie sent word to us to be at Willie Mead’s studio by 4:30 Friday afternoon. They had medieval costumes we could be squeezed into…I assure you as we drove through Denver, in the then popular open cars, we were gazed at–catcalls, boos, etc….Miss Anne all but expired when we tumbled into her house all dressed in these costumes! We looked wonderful that evening, in her out-of-this-world house with the enormous logs that made the inside as well as the outside…At breakfast, I will admit, we were a wild sight…

Burnie had us working all day Saturday…making all kinds of necessary crowns, horses, stars, out of cardboard; and believe you me, they had to be perfect–we were working for a perfectionist–but luckily one who could point the way to perfection. One development almost brought the project to a halt. After the most delicious lunch Saturday…it turned out a poisonous toadstool had been lurking in the lunch bowl. Sunday produced a sorry lot of actors. Burnie was the color of chalk. I was all right if I could sit down. By three in the afternoon most has recovered and they started rehearsing. At six, they gave the play.

Margaret Evans Davis (Anne Evans’ niece) read the words on the other side of the screen as she wove her tapestry. Most of us were holding positions and draped up the stairs–Burnie and another man having a big tilt or joust on wooden horses at the top of the stairs. It really must have been fantastically lovely.

Costumed horse for circus performance, Courtesy Margaret E. Hayden

Costumed horse for circus performance, Courtesy Margaret E. Hayden

The audience for this intense effort was small (seven in all including Anne Evans) as it was for many other efforts on the ranch over the years. The reward was apparently more in participating than in the applause.

The book may be obtained through Buffalo Park Press

For information, email info@anne-evans.com or call 303-894-0269.
This project is co-published with the Center for Colorado and the West Auraria Library.
© 2011-2012 By Barbara Sternberg. All right reserved.