The Gilcrease Museum was established in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1949 by Thomas Gilcrease (1890 – 1962) originally as a private museum. Gilcrease amassed a collection of art of the American West and a collection of historical documents.
Thomas Gilcrease was of Scots-Irish, French and Muscogee (Creek) Indian ancestory. Soon after he was born his family moved from Louisiana to the Creek Nation in Oklahoma Territory. He was added to the Creek Nation rolls when he was nine (1899), which entitled him to 160 acres of land. That property, and the allotment of his family and many other Indian families, sat right over the Glenn Pool oilfield, the first discovery of petroleum in Oklahoma in 1905. In 1922 Gilcrease founded his own oil exploration company.
While on a trip to Europe Gilcrease, wanting to collect fine art and knowing he could not compete with well-established collections of European artists, decided to create a collection of fine objects that defined the history and culture of his own roots, Native American. He broadened his collecting to include books, historical documents and ancient artifacts excavated from the Americas. In 1944 he acquired the 636 works of art, books, photographs and archival material by purchasing the western art collection of Dr. Phillip G. Cole from upstate New York. He continued his acquisition of paintings by prominent American artists and supported promising your Native American artists. He acquired a certified copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation and a letter written by Thomas Jefferson. And he continued to collect until oil revenues fell and he found himself $2.5 million in debt. In 1954 the City of Tulsa organized a bond issue to save his collections for the community. In 1958 Gilcrease deeded his collection and more than 13 acres of land to the city and committed the revenues of some of his oil properties to help pay off the bonds, which was achieved in 1985. Gilcrease died in 1962.
The City of Tulsa is now in partnership with The University of Tulsa to preserve and advance the Gilcrease Museum.
ABOVE Top Row: Ceremonial beaded saddle blankets by (1 along wall) Sioux artist ca. 1888 leather, glass beads, brass (2) Commanche artist leather, glass beads, porcupine quills, horsehair, brass; horse regalia of the Crow Nation; Crow artist Quilled Man’s Shirt with Fringe ca. 1900 leather, porcupine quills, sinew 2nd Row: Osage artist Native American Church drumstick ca. 1950, wood, leather, glass beads, horsehair and Native American Church kettle drum ca. 1980, iron, leather – used by Harding Big Bow, Kiowa (1921-1997); Cheyenne artist Woman’s Beaded Wedding Dress ca. 1875, leather, glass beads, wool, metal; Potawatomia artist Beaded Mantel ca. 1913, glass beads, cotton, brass
BELOW: Mexican Masks – “when an ancient dancer wore a mask he believed he became the animal, spirit or being whose face he wore”. Now masks are used in festivals and dances to complement a costume to help the audience identify the characters the wearer is representing.
BELOW: To Endure in Bronze – in this gallery was a step-by-step demonstration as to how bronze sculptures are made, seeing that process makes the final product all the more appreciated
Above Top Row: Oh Mother! What is It? by Charles Marion Russell, bronze, 1916; Buffalo Hunt by Charles Marion Russell, bronze, 1905; The Snake Dance by Fredrick Forms Horter, bronze, late 19th century 2nd Row: The Eagle by Henry Kirke Brown, bronze, 1867; Lassoing Wild Horses by Solon Hannibal Borglum, bronze, 1898; End of the Trail by James Earle Fraser, bronze, 1918 3rd Row: The Puritan by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, late 19th century, bronze; Abraham Lincoln by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, late 19th century, bronze; Indian Chief Sun Dial by Charles Henry Humphries, late 19th century/20th century, bronze
ABOVE: Enduring Spirits – Native American Artists
Top Row: Pueblo Sunset by Dan Namingha (Hopi-Tewa, b. 1950 ) acrylic on canvas; Dance of the Deer Spirit by Patrick Swazo-Hinds, (Tesuque Pueblo, 1929- 1974), oil on canvas; Pueblo Green Corn Dance by Fred Kabotie (Hopi, 1900-1986), oil on canvas 2nd Row: Two Coyotes and Flags Harry Fonseca (Nisenan Maidu/Hawaiian/Portugese, 1946-2006), acrylic on canvas; Hayue Hudjihini (Eagle of Delight) by Charles Bird King, 1825, oil on panel; Eagle and Bear Totem Pole by Tom Hunt (Kwakwaka’wakw Nation), cedar, paint
ABOVE: Masterworks from the Gilcrease Collection
Top Row: The Glory of the Canyon by Thomas Moran, 1875, oil on canvas; Side Canyon of the Colorado by Thomas Moran, 1878, oil on canvas; Niagara Falls by Albert Bierstadt, late 19th century, oil on canvas 2nd Row: Western Landscape Mountain Scene and River by Albert Bierstadt, late 19th century, oil on canvas; Buffaloes by George Catlin, 1854, oil on canvas; Watching the Breakers by Winslow Homer, 1891, oil on canvas 3rd Row: Shell Beach at Shinnecock by William Merritt Chase, 1892, oil on canvas; The Arrival of American Troops at the Front by John Singer Sargent, 1918, oil on canvas; Portrait of George Washington by Charles Wilson Peale, 1770, oil on canvas Lower Row: Antelope Head with Peredanal by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1953
BELOW: Special Exhibit: Dorothea Lange’s America – Dorothea Lange took the following pictures for the Resettlement and Farm Security Administrations during the Depression. Lange used “her camera as a political tool to focus as what she saw as the cruel injustices and inequalities in American society.”
Above: Dorothea Lange’s Photographs Top Row: Girl with Mattress Springs, California, 1935; In the Southwest, 1935; Unemployed Men on Howard Street, San Francisco, 1937 2nd Row: Rural Rehabilitation Client, Tulare County, California, 1938; Filipinos Cutting Lettuce, Salinas, California, 1935; Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936 3rd Row: Abandoned Tenant Cabin in the Mississippi Delta, 1937; Rural Landscape with “Grapes of Wrath” Billboard, California, 1940; Priest River Valley, Bonner County, Idaho, 1939 Lowest Row: Additional Photos for the Resettlement and Farm Security Administration with photos by Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Russell Lee, Arthur Rothstein, Ben Shahn, John Vacho Wolcott
ABOVE Special Exhibit: Mexican Modernism: Revolution & Reckoning
Top Row: Mexican Street Scene by Miguel Covarrubias, 1940, lithograph; Glass Blower by Diego Rivera, 1938, ink on paper; Mesoamerican Indian Warrior by Diego Rivera, 1920-50, ink on paper 2nd Row: Portrait of an Indigenous Man by Diego Rivera, 1937, oil on masonite; ZAPATA by Diego Rivera, lithograph, 1932; The Fruits of Labor by Diego Rivera, lithograph 3rd Row: Horses by Jose’ Chavez Morado, 1947, oil on canvas; The Countryside by Ricardo Martinez de Hoyos, 1942, oil on canvas; The Exodus by Gustavo Savin, 1943, oil on canvas
There was also a continuously running 28 minute black&white film called The Plow that Broke the Plains made in 1936 by the US federal government to convince farmers and ranchers to relocate. Its message was that most of the Great Plains was not suitable for traditional agriculture and that the Dust Bowl was a man-made disaster. Below are a few snippets from the movie.