The University of Wyoming Centennial Complex showcases a group of important works by well-known Western artists Henry Farny, Frederic Remington, and Alfred Jacob Miller.
Located in the loggia is an unparalleled collection of works by Miller, a gift to the American Heritage Center by the Graff family. As the first significant artist to paint the Rocky Mountains, Miller was the only artist to chronicle the fur trade during its peak. He attended the rendezvous of 1837, the weeklong gathering of fur trappers, American Indians, fur company agents, and Western explorers. His portrayals can be seen in paintings included in the Western Art Collection, such as The Rendezvous Near Green River — Oregon, 1837. Miller was not especially interested in realistic depictions of American Indian life, but romanticized his subjects, almost comparing them to Greek sculptures, such as in War Ground Beating a Retreat and Hunting Elk.
Just off the loggia is the Rentschler Room, which is a recreation of George Adam Rentschler's library from his apartment in New York. An enthusiastic collector of Western art, Rentschler hosted many social events in his library, which featured the work of Farny and Remington. The room and artwork show the Rentschler family's passion for Western art and devotion to the American Heritage Center.
Farny, a well-known illustrator and painter of American Indian life, worked in a realistic style. He is renowned for his almost photographic exactitude of detail and his carefully crafted sense of composition. Therefore, it is expected that every detail, such as seen in Big Game in Sight, is intensified by clarity and nuances of cool, sharp color. He depicted his subjects as individuals living in a peaceful, harmonious environment, as seen in the heavier and more opaque watercolors of his gouache, The Old Buffalo Trail. Few of his paintings show dramatic action or conflict, which contrasted from the approaches of contemporaries, such as Remington or Charles Russell.
Also in the Rentschler Room is a painting by Remington, who lived primarily in New York and traveled extensively in the West and observed many historical events. In addition to recording these events in pen and ink, Remington wrote about them, which infuses his paintings with the sense of a complete story. For example, in the painting Arizona Territory 1888, he tells the story of a group of soldiers he accompanied across hundreds of miles of the Western landscape. The grisaille, or monochromatic, painting has a photographic quality, heightening its realism, and is an example of Remington's talent en grisaille. It was one of 12 illustrations that accompanied his article, "A Scout with the Buffalo Soldiers," published in Century Magazine in 1889.
The Western Art Collection at UW represents some prime examples of these artists' work, on a par with any other institution's Western art holdings. For these artists, the West was an uncharted world, and their depictions of the landscape and people of the American West reached viewers around the world.