The Wheel Thing

Back in 1898, Ernest Blumenschein and Bert Phillips, two young artists fresh from studying in Paris, decided to take a sketching trip through the West. They were headed from Denver to northern New Mexico when the wheel of their surrey broke. Had the accident occurred earlier — in Pueblo, say, or Parker — Colorado might have become the home of the West’s most famous artist colony. But instead, the painters were stranded just north of Taos. Captivated by the scenery and culture, Phillips never left, and Blumenschein returned nearly every summer until he settled there with his family in 1919, in a circa 1797 home that today is a museum. In the meantime, though, he and Phillips became part of the “Taos Ten,” founding the Taos Society of Artists that put the American West on the artistic map.

Now three major museums in the region — the Denver Art Museum, as well as the art museums in Phoenix and Albuquerque — have collaborated to create In Contemporary Rhythm: The Art of Ernest L. Blumenschein, which opens today at the DAM, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway. Three of the works in the 66-piece ex-hibit — including the stunning “Eagle Fan” — come from the DAM’s own collection; the other paintings, sketches and illustrations are from museums and private collections across the country, according to the DAM’s Rose Beetem.

The show will be up in the Gallagher Family Gallery on the first floor of the Frederic C. Hamilton building through February 8, when it will travel on — but not by wagon. Imagine: For want of a wheel, Colorado may have lost its place as an artist colony. For information on DAM exhibits, hours and admission prices, go to www.denverartmuseum.org or call 720-865-5000.
Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Nov. 8. Continues through Feb. 8, 2008