2019-03-01 Western Art Collector

(Martin Jones) #1

of Trinidad, including the Bloom Mansion
and the Baca House, the first house built in
Trinidad. After helping save the monuments,
the governor of Colorado wrote Mitchell to
thank him for his work. “It was written in a
very flowery language, just really thanking him
for preserving the Baca House and the Bloom
Mansion,” Sheumaker says. “But then down at
the bottom, Mitchell had written ‘Horseshit!’
He didn’t preserve those buildings for people
to commend him on it. He did it because it was
the right thing to do.”
Although Mitchell was close with his sister,
who would eventually preserve his legacy,
the artist largely avoided women entirely.
“I prefer horses to most men, and certainly
I prefer horses to women in general,” he once
said. “Why in the hell women try to pick me
I’ll never know.” Sheumaker points to one
letter in particular, in which a female admirer
half-seriously berates him: “Dear Mitch: What
two-legged heifer in her right mind would try
to lasso such a cantankerous, chauvinistic,
opinionated, ornery, lovable old curmudgeon?
Love, Joan Reese. P.S. We Hope to see you
when you move to Denver—we’re only a few
blocks from your sister.” He never married, nor
did he have any children.
The museum was established in the years
after Mitchell’s death in 1977 with a generous
donation of Mitchell materials from the artist’s

sister, Ethel “Tot” Mitchell Erickson. “The
only condition she had was that we had to
be operable for five years to make sure it was
sustainable, and then once we proved that
she left us her full trust,” Sheumaker says.
“And she donated everything to the museum,
including all of Mitchell’s things—he was a bit
of a hoarder—as well as her own collection
of Mexican and Spanish Colonial religious
artifacts. There are so many materials that I have
to remind myself to spend an hour every week
going through all the boxes in the basement.”
And the artwork is wonderful: Cowboys
on reared-back horses with guns blazing.
Young buckaroos leaning on fenceposts rolling
cigarettes. Bucking broncs and cattle scenes.
Native Americans traversing the land under
billowing clouds. Gold panners sloshing
water through tin pans at the edges of streams.
These are the images that came to define pulp
magazines, and Mitchell as well. He later wrote:
“To whoever might be interested: All of my
work deals pretty much with the same region,
the same subject matter, the same kind of
people and springs from the same impulse.
Maybe this is just romantic impulse to try
to recreate the past of my own forebears, or
that of those still living in my boyhood whom
I knew and admired and who were an active
part of that great migration and settlement
of our frontier West. It was then a world of

horses and horsemen, big skies and the great
unfenced outdoors. As a boy I was in love
with these same things that thrill me now. The
look of this particular piece of country with
its pinon-dotted flat-topped hills, and the man
on horseback moving against the background
thrilled me when I was a boy and time has not
changed that in the least.”

The Art of
A.R. Mitchell
Ongoing now
The A.R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art
150 E. Main Street
Trinidad, CO 81082
(719) 846-4224

Prayer, oil, 22 x 34”

in the
doorway of
the Pioneer
Museum at
the Trinidad
Museum in
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