2019-03-01 Western Art Collector

(Martin Jones) #1

Western Art News

A Collector’s Passion

Ed Trumble, founder of the Leanin’ Tree museum and

greeting card company, passes away at 94.


d Trumble, the charismatic
Colorado businessman
who brought Western art to
the masses through his Leanin’
Tree greeting card company,
died December 26, 2018, in
Longmont, Colorado. He was 94.
The Nebraska-born
entrepreneur was born on a farm,
but after the Dust Bowl and the
Great Depression his family was
kicked off the land. With little
money to their names, the family
opened a boarding house. At the
outbreak of World War II, Trumble
joined the Army and later saw
fierce combat in Europe, including
in the Battle of the Bulge, during
which his division, outnumbered
and outgunned, fought back
German troops for four miserable
days near Hofen, Germany. In
the waning months of the war in
Europe, Trumble was injured by
a German artillery shell and sent
home to recover.
After the war he graduated with
a degree in business administration
and was recruited by Hallmark
Cards, though he declined the
offer. Later he would create the
Leanin’ Tree in 1964. It began
as a small, direct-mail Western
Christmas card business, but
would eventually become one of
America’s leading card companies,
which annually publishes more
than 700 artists on more than
6,000 cards and gift products.
During the early years of the
company, Trumble would search
for artists in many of the leading
Western galleries, which led to his
eventual support of many galleries,
artists and museums. By 1974 his

own personal art collection was
vast, at which point he opened the
Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western
Art in Gunbarrel, Colorado. The
collection included major works
from James Reynolds, Kenneth
Riley, Fritz Scholder, Gerard Curtis
Delano and many others. The
museum was a must-see Western
destination for more than 40 years.
With Trumble’s advancing age, he
closed the museum in 2017.
“Western art has been my life’s
passion and mission. But all good
things must eventually come to an
end. The joy was in the journey...”
Trumble wrote to his supporters

when he announced the closure of
the museum in 2017. “The roots
of my interest in the West were
planted early and deep, in a young
boy’s fertile imagination, as my
family scrabbled for survival on a
Depression- and drought-battered
Nebraska farm. Riding my cow
pony Sunny, with ol’ Buster, my
dog darting to and fro alongside,
we—well, I—dreamt of leading
great cattle drives, fightin’ off
determined varmints and rustlers,
and pushing deep into steep, blue
valleys in pursuit of beaver, gold,
wealth, fame—the collective
dreams of youth.”

The auction, held in January
2018 and organized by the
Scottsdale Art Auction, realized
$7.4 million and produced 37
artist world records, many of
them still standing today. It also
achieved a rare feat: a white glove
sale, an auction in which 100
percent of the items sell.
“One of the real highlights
of my career was to have the
opportunity, through the Scottsdale
Art Auction, to sell Ed’s collection.
Ed was a delight to work with.
He made the decision to sell
the collection because he didn’t
want it to be a burden to his
family—it was his passion and
he was sensitive to the fact that
maintaining a collection like that
takes a lot of time,” says Brad
Richardson, auction partner at
Scottsdale Art Auction. “What
was great about Ed was that he
was decisive. He knew how to
make a decision. He was also a
high-quality person, through and
through. I love the quote from his
obituary: during the war he was
injured and he told someone, ‘If
I live through this war I will never
complain about anything again.’
And he honored that because
I never heard him complain about
In addition to being a
prominent figure in Western art,
Trumble was also an avid powder
skier, scuba diver, sailor, fitness
advocate, supporter of Boy Scouts
of America and author. Though he
closed the museum and sold off
the art collection, the Leanin’ Tree
card company is still run by his
family today.

Leanin’ Tree founder Ed Trumble with pieces from his famous art collection
before they were sold in a white-glove sale in 2018. This is the image that
appears on the cover of The Story of Leanin’ Tree: Art and Enterprise in the
American West.
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