The permanence of bronze, from antiquity to the present, has long promised artistic immortality. As Frederic Remington declared in 1895, “My oils will all get old and watery – that is they will look like stale molasses in time – my watercolors will fade – but I am to endure in bronze … I am going to rattle down through all the ages.” It is not hard to argue that Remington’s artistic legacy is assured in large part to the enduring nature of his bronzes.
Taking Remington’s words and works as inspiration, To Endure in Bronze presents bronze sculpture from the museum’s permanent collection. The exhibition provides an opportunity to showcase works by many of the most important American sculptors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some, such as Remington and Charles Russell, were essentially self-taught. Others like James Earle Fraser and Hermon Atkins MacNeil had rigorous training at prestigious academies in Paris. Regardless of training, these artists created works that endure as uniquely American.
True to Thomas Gilcrease’s collecting interests, the majority of works in To Endure in Bronze deal with subjects and themes based in the American West – an often nostalgic West full of iconic wildlife, Native Americans and cowboys; a West that is both real and imagined. While some works may be familiar favorites, many others will be new discoveries, such as those by Jerome Tiger and the bronzes by the only women sculptors in the collection, Malvina Hoffman and Constance Whitney Warren. Whether a favorite or revelation, these works have stood the test of time, as they continue to endure in bronze.