2019-03-01 Western Art Collector

(Martin Jones) #1

The museum likely isn’t on many Western fans’
must-see lists, but Allyson Sheumaker, the museum’s
executive director, is betting on the museum’s huge
collection of Mitchell materials and its gorgeous
location in a renovated and historic department
store to entice new visitors, especially those
who may not have been aware of the museum’s
existence. “We’re just not on the map for many
people,” she says, “but Mitchell is a fascinating
subject and I expect once visitors see what we have
that word will spread.”
Mitchell, who appeared on hundreds of
covers of Western pulp magazines, started out as
a real cowboy working cattle on the A6 ranch in
Vermejo Park,  New Mexico. Later he took a job
at newspapers in Boise, Idaho, and Seattle before
venturing to New York to study with Harvey Dunn,
who encouraged his students to make a living
through art. “When they ask you what a picture
is for,” Dunn told him, “tell them, ‘for sale!’”
Mitchell took it to heart and became one of the
most prominent artists working in Western pulps
and book covers from the late 1920s to the 1940s.
Later, by the start of World War II, Mitchell returned
to Trinidad to settle his affairs after a cancer
diagnosis. Except his cancer was held at bay and
he lived another 30 years, during which he became
part of Trinidad’s history.
“Mitchell felt like he was born too late. He hated
all the change. He hated car radios. He hated that
people weren’t walking or riding horses. You have to
go back and think about what life was like in 1920:
kids didn’t have TV, no internet, no cellphones and
half of them didn’t even have electricity. They just
read stories and used their imagination,” Sheumaker
says. “And here were magazines that allowed them
to use their imaginations.”
Not only was Mitchell known around Trinidad
as a talented artist and illustrator, but he also had a
cantankerous side to him that was documented in
Richard Louden’s book Mitchellisms. Mitchell was
outspoken, gruff and blunt. He didn’t suffer fools.
When the local church built a gymnasium, Mitchell
was vocal about the look of it: “It looks like a horse
turd in a pan of milk.” In another feud with the city, the
artist had harsh words for the mayor: “If they searched
the world over they couldn’t find a worse one. He’s not
fit to be mayor of a prairie dog town.” During World
War II, as the chamber of commerce was hosting a
scrap metal drive, someone suggested Mitchell donate
his collection of oxen shoes he owned. Mitchell
offered to donate the shoes only if they “would melt
them down and make bullets to shoot the dumb
Chamber of Commerce bastards like you.”
Mitchell was city’s grump in chief, and he would
frequently vent his disapproval in letters to the
editor of the town’s paper, and these complaints
would cover the gamut of city problems including
sidewalks, roadways and even the newspaper itself.
And yet, Mitchell worked hard to protect aspects

Bustin’, oil, 35 x 25”

Gold Panner, oil, 25 x 30”
Free download pdf