A Running Fight: The Red River War in Art
Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum
Through February 14, 2010
If it’s a fight you want, then look no further than the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum (PPHM) in Canyon, Texas. PPHM is displaying A Running Fight: The Red River War in Art, which showcases a wide range of art and artifacts related to the war between the U.S. Army and the Indian tribes of the Southern Plains from 1874 to 1875. A Running Fight will be on display through February 14, 2010
In 1874, the U. S. Army launched a campaign to remove several Indian tribes from the Southern Plains. The Army’s objective was to relocate the tribes to the Indian Reservations. Since the relocation treaties failed, the Indians rebelled against the Anglo-Saxons, who were destroying their way of life. The tribes launched a surprise attack known as The Battle of Adobe Walls on June 26, 1874, only to lose the battle and spark the Red River War. The U.S. Army reacted by attacking large numbers of Indians along the Red River. The war officially ended in 1875 when the remaining Indian tribes entered Fort Sill and surrendered.
A Running Fight depicts both sides of the fighting in the Battle of Adobe Wall and The Red River War.
“There are not only Native American artists, but Anglo-Saxon artists as well and that is very important as each side’s point of view is portrayed in this exhibit,” said Guy C. Vanderpool, Museum Director.
Over half of the paintings are done in the early 1900s as well as some contemporary pieces done in the 20th century. Every angle of this war is covered in all media including oil on canvas, watercolor and pen on paper. There are even a few statues and a piece done on tanned animal hide. Artists H. Bugbee (1900 – 1963) and Vincent Colyer (1825 – 1888) had several works on display.
The most prominent painting on display is The Battle of Adobe Walls (1911) by Gwenfred Lackey (1894 – 1985). Ms. Lackey created a masterpiece depicting the battle of Adobe Walls. The painting shows a beautiful sunset juxtaposed with a bloody battle scene. The Battle of Adobe Walls was her depiction of the stories past down to her by family all the way back to Billy Dixon, a friend of her father who actually fought in the battle. Ms. Lackey worked very hard to make the scene as authentic as possible. Her goal was to portray the battle the way it actually happened.
General Custer and I Were Very Nearly the Same Age and the Best of Friends (1910) by W. Herbert Dunton (1878 – 1936) is a beautiful, black and white oil on canvas. Dunton shows Custer and another soldier with a large bison. Alongside General Custer are wonderful watercolors by H. Bugbee representing the Southern Plains Indians.
A Running Fight includes contemporary paintings of Native Americans with decorated horses, generals who participated in the war and pictures of how the battle’s location looks today. The battleground in at least five of these paintings is very bright, hilly and flooded with patches of flowers and greenery. As this place represents victory for the settlers, the more contemporary paintings, generally done after 1970, paint with light and optimism.
On display is a gold and nickel plated .44/40 caliber rifle, the Quannah Parker Red River War Tribute Rifle (1999); a very unique part of the exhibit. Etched on the right side are decorations of the Battle of Adobe Walls and on the left is a map of the Red River War with pictures of important generals and chiefs. The rifle exhibits very detailed craftsmanship.
Many artists were attracted to both the epic battles and small skirmishes that took place in the Texas Panhandle. These artists include Nick Eggenhofer, Frederic Remington, Olive Vandruff and Carlton Mead. Each has done their part to keep the past of the Texas Panhandle alive.
“The Red River War Exhibit reflects on our commitment to preserving one of several art exhibits that receive national attention for uniqueness and value. Many of these paintings are from permanent collections and they demonstrate the strength and diversity of our collection” said Director Vanderpool.
The Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum is very proud and fortunate to have exhibits such as A Running Fight.