The Amon Carter Museum is a physically small but nonetheless major entry in Fort Worth’s Cultural District, that cluster of attractions that also includes (among other things) the Kimball Art Museum, the Will Rogers Memorial Center, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. It’s worth a close look if you enjoy American art.
The Museum is located in a rather minimalist building at the edge of a park. Here’s what it looks like from the outside. Just a simple concrete structure with five bays and a front wall made of glass.
It’s kind of plain, yes, and this picture doesn’t do it justice. (I’m not likely to win any photography awards anytime soon). But as with any museum, and for that matter any human being, it’s what’s inside that counts. The Amon Carter Museum (which is named after the founder and first publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper) contains one of the best and most eclectic collections of American art in the world, including comprehensive collections of the work of Western artists Charles Russell and Frederick Remington. Frankly, those collections alone are enough reason to visit the Amon Carter. Russell and Remington are probably the two contemporary artists who, for good or ill, most shaped our modern cultural meme of the American frontier of the 1800s.
Other paintings held by the Amon Carter in their permanent collection include works by Stuart Davis, Georgia O’Keefe, Frederick Church, Winslow Homer, and many others less well known than they. But the Museum also maintains an exquisite collection of illustrated books (I particularly liked the illustrated books on the flora and trees of North America), not to mention plenty of works on paper (including items by John J. Audubon and Karl Bodmer), sculptures galore, and more than 4,000 square feet of galleries dedicated to nothing but photographs; they own more than 30,000, from early daguerreotypes to modern pieces — including some by Richard Avedon and Ansel Adams, for example. They’ve also got some works by the great Mathew Brady, who was basically the “photographer to the stars” in the mid-1800s. He’s probably best known for his photographs of the presidents of the era, including Lincoln and Grant.
In addition to their permanent collections, the Museum regularly offers several special exhibitions at any one time. At the time of this writing (late February 2008), they’re currently handling three. The first is “Intimate Modernism: Fort Worth Circle Artists in the 1940s,” a self-explanatory exhibit of 100+ paintings and prints that’s on display until May 11. Then there’s “The Art of the American Snapshot, 1888-1978: From the Collection of Robert E. Jackson,” another nicely self-explanatory exhibit organized by the National Gallery of Art that goes on until April 27. Finally, you can enjoy another photo exhibit, this one titled “100 Years of Autochrome,” which graphically documents the use of autochrome, “the first commercially viable color photographic process.” It’s there until July 27. Many of the autochrome photos, especially the older ones, remind me of those hand-tinted art prints you see sometimes. My understanding is that old color film actually used potato grains to transfer the color.
Needless to say, an afternoon spent at the Amon Carter Museum is an afternoon well spent, if you have any trace of culture in your soul. Admission to the permanent collection is free, but as with the Kimball you’ll have to pay to visit the special exhibitions; the price varies according to the exhibition. No flash photography or movie cameras are allowed, but you can try to take photos in the permanent collection using ambient light.
The museum is located at 3501 Camp Bowie Boulevard, just down the street from the Kimball and the Will Rogers Memorial Center. Hours of operation are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 10 AM-5 PM; Thursday, 12-8 PM; and Sunday, 12-5 PM. The museum is closed on Mondays and all major holidays. For more information, visit their website at http://www.cartermuseum.org.