Tit for Tat

Tit for Tat an original oil on canvas signed by Arthur Roy Mitchell is estimated to sell for more than $3,000 at the Arts of American West auction in Denver on Wednesday, November 7.

In and around Trinidad, the question has been bandied about for decades: How is it that Charles Russell and Fredric Remington hold positions of such high esteem in the world of classic Western art, while Trinidad’s own A.R. Mitchell remains largely unknown outside our region?

“Arthur Roy Mitchell did not self-promote,” asserts Mitchell Museum Executive Director Allyson Sheumaker. “He didn’t paint or sketch for fame or fortune, and he neither sought nor received the widespread acclaim given to his better-known Western art contemporaries.”

“Because our mission is to to preserve A.R. Mitchell’s legacy in its myriad forms, we are delighted to be working in partnership with the prominent auction firm, Hindman, on an endeavor intended to ensure long-term preservation of the museum’s collection,” she added.

For the first time in its history, Trinidad’s A.R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art will offer at auction a select few original Mitchell paintings, along with works by his nationally regarded art teacher/painter Harvey Dunn, and lifelong friend, illustrator Harold Von Schmidt. The Arts of the American West auction will be conducted by Hindman Auctions on November 7 in Denver, and also online.

This step comes as “The Mitch” seeks to raise awareness of Mitchell’s significant contribution to the adventure-themed, Western magazines that flourished from the 1920s to 1940s — an era in which Mitchell was oft considered “The King of Pulp.”

Hindman Southwest Region Vice President Maron Hindman remembers the first time she walked into the Trinidad art museum. “I was astonished to discover the scope and size of the Mitchell collection,” she said. “A.R. Mitchell’s work is stunning and he was as good at landscapes as he was with his bright, active Pulp Western-themed works. The Museum is clearly ripe for growth. Our initial questions were What are the museum’s goals — and how can we help?”

Following a presentation by Hindman and Business Development Director Kate Harrington over the summer, the museum Board unanimously voted to follow in the footsteps of untold museums and institutions of all sizes and affiliations.

Harrington applauds the Board’s foresight. “When a museum seeks support in serving its mission and its local community, bringing works of art to auction is a responsible form of collection management. We will also support the museum by holding a friendraiser event during our public auction preview in our Denver saleroom.”

Highlights of the collection include two paintings by Harvey Dunn titled Cattle Herd and Cowboy and Bet a Stack of Blues, each with presale estimates of $8,000 - $12,000; and Harold Von Schmidt’s River Crossing, estimated to bring $12,000 - $18,000. Arthur Roy Mitchell illustrations include Tit for Tat (presale estimate $3,000 - $4,000), as well as Morning Friskies and Driving Off Rustlers, each with presale estimates of $2,000 - $4,000. Several pieces from Mitchell’s collection of Native American pottery and baskets will also be featured in the auction offerings.

“Our upcoming project with Hindman carries the potential to set us on a vigorous and sustainable path,” explains Sheumaker. “This opportunity to introduce Mitchell’s body of work to a broader audience of art appreciators, directly supports our plans to (1) maintain our extensive collection of Mitchell paintings, sketches, Native American and Hispanic artifacts, and personal effects; (2) curate a traveling exhibit; (3) make facility upgrades to the 113-year-old former Jamieson’s Dry Goods department store site; and (4) publish a book of A.R. Mitchell art.”

“The more widely we share the story of Mitchell the illustrator, fine artist, historian, working cowboy and ardent lover of his native Southwest, the more his legend grows,” continues Sheumaker.

“In turn, rising visitation numbers at the museum will benefit our local eateries, shops, and accommodations, and strengthen our local economy. It’s time for more people to experience and appreciate the unique greatness of A.R. Mitchell and the rough-and-tumble West he so adored.”

The Arts of the American West sale will be conducted in the Hindman Denver saleroom November 7 at 10 a.m. Mountain Time and can be previewed November 2 through 6. You may visit hindmanauctions.com for additional information; the full auction catalog can be seen online after October 4. Hindman is one of the nation’s leading fine art auction houses, and conducts over 100 auctions a year at its 11 U.S. locations.

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