Collectibles

A Rich Visual Playground

Pictorial storytelling shines at the Coeur d’Alene auction’s offerings of historical Western American art.

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At this year’s Coeur d’Alene Art Auction, held in Reno, Nevada, on July 21, collectors found a grand offering of masters and contemporary artists who excel in pictorial storytelling that compels viewers to stop and take notice.

Thanks to the artists who recreated the frontier they saw with their own eyes, and to the pioneers and Indians who recorded their stories as they lived them, history is not trapped in an inaccessible past. Where Western American art excels is when the artist has richly narrated a world teeming with people and incident.

At its worst, western history painting devolves into saccharin nostalgia. At its best, it uses all of the techniques of the illustrator’s and historian’s trades to transport its audience into another place and time, leading them through the eye into a contemplation of the vanished frontier,” wrote William H. and William N. Goetzmann in The West of the Imagination. They add that, for artists of the historical American West, “the West was a panorama that the artist witnesses as it unfolds, the immense saga of many people and many places and many...

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