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22 August 2012 / leggypeggy

Gilcrease Museum showcases art of American West

Sculpture in the Gilcrease gardens.

Three places are at the top of my to-go list in Tulsa area—Woolaroc, the Will Rogers Memorial and the Gilcrease Museum.

I’ve already introduced the first two, so now its time to stop by the Gilcrease, which has the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of art, artifacts, manuscripts, documents and maps from the American West. It galleries display and store more than 250,000 items.

Oilman Thomas Gilcrease started the collection in the 1930s after he toured Europe, where he was impressed by the wealth and grandeur of Old World culture.

On his return home, he looked to his own heritage for inspiration and set about creating a collection of fine objects that reflected the breadth of Native American history and culture.

He bought entire of collections of western artworks, as well as books, photographs and associated archival material. These and other acquisitions brought him important pieces by Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, Thomas Moran, George Catlin, Willard Stone, Alfred Jacob Miller, Thomas Eakin and many more.

Butterflies grace the Gilcrease gardens

On periodic forays to the famous artists’ colony at Taos, New Mexico, Gilcrease developed friendships with and purchased paintings directly from several artists. He also extended his encouragement and support to promising young Native American artists.

His first museum opened in San Antonio, but due to a lack of interest in that part of Texas, he moved the collection to Tulsa in 1949.

By 1953, Gilcrease found himself financially strapped and unable to pay some $2.5 million he owed to business associates and to galleries and art brokers for various acquisitions.

As he began to look for a way out of his difficulties, several suitors for his collection emerged. To fend off the entrees of competitors and to keep the collection in tact, the City of Tulsa organized a successful bond issue in 1954, designed to pay the oilman’s debts and to secure his treasures for the community.

Later in the 1950s, Gilcrease deeded his collection, the museum buildings and more than 13 acres of land to the community.

More sculpture at Gilcrease.

Today the City of Tulsa and The University of Tulsa work in partnership to preserve and advance the museum and its many themed gardens.

The images here are from the Gilcrease gardens. I wish I could have shown photos of artworks inside—especially paintings by Moran and sculptures by Remington. But the museum no longer allows photography inside. If I ever find the photos I took in the 1990s, I add some here.



Leave a Comment
  1. Loytoria L. Bailey / Mar 19 2016 9:34 am

    I would love to know more and see more… hope to be soon

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 19 2016 1:53 pm

      We loved this museum and hope you do too. Lots of fantastic displays inside. I wish I had been allowed to take photos there.


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