The Horse as an Icon of the Old West

Horses have been a time honored subject of paintings and other artistic mediums. The stateliness of the horse has been used as an allegory for war heroes, symbols of a country, and religious iconography. Art of the American west captures not only the allegory but also the reality. Horses represented freedom, and they were necessary for hunting, travel, and escape. These beasts took on an almost deity level to those that depended on them. Both Native Americans and American settlers looked to these strong animals to help them survive.

By Deborah Butterfield

Deborah Butterfield
Unique bronze, 45″ x 56″ x 16″
Deborah Butterfield has devoted her entire career to sculpting horses. She uses mud and organic fibers in the works. In addition, she includes what she calls “junk” — items like rusting wire, corrugated metal, chicken wire, and wood fencing.

While the horse has made an important place for itself in the history of the West, it was not always roaming the plains. Before the 1500s, you would not have seen a horse in the West, or anywhere else on the lands that would become the United States of America. Explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado introduced the horse to North America while continuing his hunt for gold with the rest of the conquistadors. He is said to have had up to 1,000 horses with his crew.

Moving forward to the early 1900s, sculptor Cyrus Dallin was the first to make a name for himself as a sculptor of Native American and equestrian figures. Most of the equestrian sculptures of that time honored United States Army war heroes.

Cyrus Dallin

Cyrus Dallin
On the Warpath
Bronze, 41 3/4″ x 411/2″ x 13″

The culture of the horse that inspired many artists ended quickly with the introduction of automobiles and trains as more convenient means of transportation. While the lifestyle may have changed, the images that are drawn in one’s head reading about the Old West remain. Artists still influenced by this time in American life keep relevant the visual reminders of a time gone by.

Celebrate Holiday Traditions at the Rockwell!

Imagine a giant Christmas tree adorned with hundreds of precious ornaments, the perfect Santa scene and a holiday vintage toy display. Now stop imagining it and come experience it at the Rockwell!

Throughout the holiday season, we feature drop-in craft activities for all ages, a charming winter woodland tree (that you can decorate!), and much more. Become a detective along the holiday art hunt trail, have your photo taken with Cowboy Santa, attend the magical The Polar Express® Move Night, and travel back in time through the Vintage Toy Display.

To support the spirit of the season, we even play a special arrangement of holiday music selected by WSKG Classical Music Director, Bill Schneider.

Watch the transformation of the Rockwell, as we get ready for the holiday season.

Upcoming Holiday Activities

Vintage Toy Display at The Rockwell
Through January 3, 2014
Travel back through time to see children’s vintage toys and memorabilia from the Victorian Era, as well as toys from the 1920’s through the 1950’s. The toys on display are drawn from the Rockwell Toy Collection that Bob and Hertha Rockwell collected during their lifetime. The toys are set atop cases painted like wrapped presents and the special hand-painted cases are placed throughout the Museum. From baby dolls to cap guns to toy trains, these are toys Americans have grown up with and still love today, toys that evoke the classic holiday spirit of bygone times. The toys are part of a special art hunt, and each toy features a few fun facts and questions that will encourage children of all ages to think about these classic toys in new ways.

Family Sparkle
Saturday, December 7, 2013
3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Make your own Sparkle snowflake ornament! Bring your family to enjoy holiday music performed by local students, play Bison Bingo, and complete a holiday art hunt.

Silver Jewelry Trunk Sale
Saturday, December 7, 2013
9:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Mata Ortiz to You combines fine art from two small villages in Mexico – Mata Ortiz, the center of fine ceramics, and Taxco, the center of fine silver. Blend the two, and you have completely hand formed, one-of-a-kind pieces. We are excited to host Russ and Jan Diers, founders of the Arizona-based Mata Ortiz To You gallery, to explain each piece and the significance of this craft. Discover the most unique and high quality gifts of the season at the Museum Store at The Rockwell!

Photos with Cowboy Santa
Sunday, December 8, 2013
1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Have your photo taken with Cowboy Santa near the western fireplace in The Museum Lodge. A holiday tree – lit and decorated with antlers, feathers, pine cones and berries – alongside a Southwestern Santa chair, and an authentic cowhide rug is the perfect photo op!  Visit the Education Center and design your own photo frame to create the perfect Museum memento.