William Henry Dethlef Koerner (American, born in Germany, 1878–1938), Madonna of the Prairie, 1921, oil on canvas, 43.5 x 35.5 inches (frame), Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming, USA, Museum purchase, 25.77

Special ticketed exhibition

Go West! Art of the American Frontier from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West examines the development and disruption of the American West through more than eighty original artworks by Euro-American and Plains Indian artists. These celebrated artworks exemplify how newcomers mythologized their vision of the region and Native peoples sought to preserve their vanishing way of life.

From 1830 to 1930, the West was a site of exploration and settlement for Euro-Americans, and one of displacement and adaptation for Native Americans. To Euro-Americans, it was the "frontier," a wilderness waiting to be conquered under the mandate for Manifest Destiny, but for many Native tribes it was their ancestral homeland.

Go West! Art of the American Frontier chronicles early expeditions by Euro-American artists to survey the expansive territory and record its inhabitants. Contemporaneous works by Plains Indian artists attest to long-standing artistic traditions encountered by the pioneers. Romanticized, or idealized, images of the land and its people made mythical the experience of the West. By the end of the nineteenth century the so-called "frontier" had closed—development and industry had reached the Pacific Coast.

Objects in the exhibition tell the story of how Euro-American artists and patrons perpetuated a nostalgic vision of this region while Native peoples, forced by the American government to relocate to reservations, continued to create works of art as an effort to preserve their way of life. Now West!, a series of free programs accompanying the exhibition, is meant to encourage dialogue and critical thinking around this consequential period in American history. (Detailed schedule of events below.)

Highlights of the exhibition include works by iconic landscape painters Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt, renowned painter and sculptor Frederic Remington, and one of the nineteenth century’s best-known female artists, Rosa Bonheur. Works by these and other Euro-Americans are presented in conversation with stunning objects by Plains Indian artists, including a Lakota Sioux Tobacco Bag (ca. 1885) that integrates traditional porcupine quillwork with beadwork, and Jacket (ca. 1885), made of tanned deer hide, dyed horse hair, glass beads, and other materials, from the Apsáalooke (Crow).

The exhibition features a Speak Back room, where visitors can share feedback and their own ideas about the West. Book clubs are invited to read a related text and take a special tour of the exhibition through the Art Tours for Book Lovers program.

Go West! Art of the American Frontier is curated by Mindy Besaw and Stephanie Mayer Heydt. Leslie Anderson, UMFA curator of European, American, and regional art, organized the exhibition for Salt Lake City.

Presenting sponsors
The Hal R. and Naoma J. Tate Foundation 
Zions Bank 

With additional support from the Willard L. Eccles Charitable Foundation and the Stephen G. and Susan E. Denkers Family Foundation.

Now West! Public Programs | FREE

Encouraging dialogue and critical thinking around this consequential period in American history. All events are at the UMFA unless otherwise noted.

Thayer Tolles: The American West in Bronze, 1850–1925 | Thursday, December 7 | 7 pm

Third Saturday for Families: Waterscapes | Saturday, December 16 | 1 -4 pm

ACME Session | Native American Artists’ Voices | Wednesday, January 10 | 6:30 pm
Salt Lake City Public Library, Marmalade Branch

DeLesslin George-Warren: Tours and Presentations
Indigenous Corps of Discovery: The Don’t Go West Expedition  exhibition tour and presentation
Good Trouble: Children's Story Time and Social Dance presentation
Wednesday, January 10-Saturday, January 13 | Click links for specific dates and times
Histories: Artist Lecture and Performance
Thursday, January 11 | 7 pm

Leslie Anderson: "The Most Frightful Nightmare: American Artists on Westward Expeditions" | Wednesday, January 17 | 7 pm

Gregory Hinton: Out West with Buffalo Bill | Thursday, February 8 | 7 pm

Emma Hansen: Native Art and a Sense of Place in the Great Plains | Thursday, February 22 | 7 pm

Creativity in Focus: Through the Repellent Fence | Wednesday, February 28 | 7 pm

Peter Hassrick: Bierstadt and Moran: The Battle for Yellowstone | Thursday, March 8 | 7 pm

Citywide Celebration

“On the Trail of the West: Salt Lake City, Utah,” a citywide celebration of the American West, co-presented by the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, features additional special events at other venues across Salt Lake City.

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