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  • James Nottage retires after 50 years in Western museums

    by Bryan Corbin, Storyteller magazine editor | Jun 14, 2018

    James Nottage, Chief Curator
    James Nottage

    The curator who led the Eiteljorg Museum’s curatorial and collections efforts for the past 17 years is an authentic son of the West. James Nottage grew up in Laramie, Wyoming, and remembers as a small child meeting a turn-of-the-last-century Old West train robber, long since paroled and a larger than life character. “He had these extraordinary stories about robbing trains and going to prison; and that motivated my young imagination,” James said.

    That spark lit the fire of James’ love of the history and heritage of the West, which led ultimately to his 50-year career in museums. Since 2001, James has served as the Eiteljorg’s vice president and chief curatorial officer and as the Gund curator of Western art, history and culture. His management and creative vision led to important acquisitions such as the Helen Cox Kersting and Kenneth “Bud” Adams collections, and to exhibitions such as Guitars and Red/Black. He has authored and edited many Eiteljorg art publications and closely worked with artists, collectors, donors and scholars.

    As he retires from the Eiteljorg in June, James said what has been most motivating throughout his career was the opportunity to work on major projects involving the expansion or creation of museums: at the Kansas Museum of History early on, at the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles at its founding, and then at the Eiteljorg during its 2005 expansion that doubled the size of the museum.

    “Being a curator is an opportunity to have some really important privileges,” James said, such as the responsibility to work with important objects and artworks and help people understand them. “It’s the kind of job where you have the opportunity to work with a range of people who can share your passions,” including artists, colleagues and also patrons who support the museum financially or with donations of art. “Of all the places that I’ve worked, the Eiteljorg is rather profoundly successful in relating to all sorts of people,” he said.

    Early museum years
    Knowing from a young age in Laramie that he would be a museum curator, James discovered the untapped scholarly potential of studying the West professionally. “As I went through early jobs, early college, it was clear that an emphasis on the study of America was always heavily weighted on the East Coast, and there is plenty of room to do things besides Pilgrims,” he said.

    He served in state historical institutions in Wyoming and Kansas, earning two master’s degrees along the way. In 1985, James and his wife Mary Ellen were the first employees hired by the new Autry Museum — where he was vice president and founding chief curator, she the vice president of collections. The museum was founded by Gene Autry, the singing cowboy, movie and TV star and baseball team owner.

    “He loved a good joke and a good meal and was very personable,” James said of Gene Autry in his later years. “The challenge anything, it was difficult for some people -- including myself -- to separate this well-known and regarded personality from just being an everyday person.  It was hard to have a restaurant meal (with him) and him not be interrupted all the time” by Autry’s fans.

    Eiteljorg.Museum.The Reel West.Exhibit
    Eiteljorg Museum exhibit The Reel West, with "Lone Ranger" costume items of Clayton Moore.

    Through the Autry Museum, James got to know many well-known entertainers — not only Gene Autry, but Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and Clayton Moore, TV’s Lone Ranger. “He was hugely personable and very kind. (Moore) always astounded me: I met him the first time and it would have been maybe a year later when I saw him again, and he greeted me by name and asked about my wife by name. He was an extraordinary individual in a lot of ways, so he kind of justified my childhood perceptions of the heroic Lone Ranger,” James recalled.

    West in the Midwest
    The opportunity for James to work on the Eiteljorg’s expansion drew the Nottages from L.A. to Indianapolis in 2001. Among the many exhibitions whose curation he led and managed, James cited Red/Black in 2011 that explored shared histories of Native Americans and African-Americans, focusing on their touching connections. “I think that’s the value of any museum. It’s not just that you might say, ‘We have a great painting or an object,’ but you can see for yourself and tell the public about how something connects with people’s real lives, whether it’s part of someone’s creativity, or an object that’s very telling about events in people’s lives.”

    Retiring as chief curator, James will continue to consult on the Eiteljorg’s Western gallery reinstallation and on a future exhibit. His wife Mary Ellen is retired executive director of the Indiana Medical History Museum. A music buff and collector, James is learning to play steel guitar, and retirement might afford more time for music and to finish personal book projects. The Nottages plan to remain in the area and attend Eiteljorg events.

    James said it’s been rewarding to see the Eiteljorg Museum mature and grow in terms of major acquisitions, educational programming, collections, publications and recognition among scholars and the general public. “There’s plenty of room for future growth. It’s a young institution with a good soul; it’s great to be a part of that.”



    Top Image Caption:

    James Nottage, vice president and chief curatorial officer and Gund curator of Western art, history and culture, is retiring after 17 years at the Eiteljorg, where he managed the museum’s curatorial and collections departments. He is seen here in the museum’s work area with the E.I. Couse painting, The Wedding. The 1924 oil painting was a gift to the museum courtesy of Harrison Eiteljorg.

    The James Nottage File:

    • Eiteljorg Museum: Vice president and chief curatorial officer, Gund curator of Western art history and culture, 2001-2018
    • Autry Museum of Western Heritage, vice president and founding chief curator, 1985-2001
    • Kansas Museum of History, supervisory historian, assistant museum director, curator of exhibits, 1977-1985
    • University of Wyoming Archives, archivist, 1976-1977
    • Wyoming State Museum, assistant curator, 1969-1975
    • Laramie Centennial Committee Museum, curator, 1968
    • BA and MA in American history and American studies, University of Wyoming, 1972, 1976
    • MA in history museum studies, Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University College at Oneonta, NY, 1975
    • Author, editor, lecturer, consultant with a focus on art, history and cultures of the American West


    Upcoming Events at the Eiteljorg Museum:

    Thursday November 8

    6:00 p.m.
    Special celebration in honor of James H. Nottage’s retirement.

    Friday November 9

    6:00 p.m.
    Preview of reopened Western galleries, for members.

    For reservations, contact mwhistler@eiteljorg.org or call 317.275.1316.

    On Eiteljorg.org
    For behind-the-scenes updates on the work of museum employees, read the Eiteljorg blog:
    http://www.eiteljorg.org/interact/blog/eitelblog/2018/05/29/hello-goodbye-longtime-employees-will-be-missed-new-employees-welcomed

     

    This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of Storyteller magazine. 





  • Summer renovations will lead to fall reopening of Western galleries

    by | | Jun 06, 2018

    Wilson Hurley_October Suite, Grand Canyon

    Exciting changes ahead will enhance the public’s enjoyment and appreciation of the Eiteljorg Museum’s two main Western art galleries.

    The Art of the American West Gallery and the Gund Gallery, both on the museum’s first floor, are being renovated this summer, and the beautiful paintings, sculptures and other objects seen in them will be reinstalled. Exciting new acquisitions and interactive activities will help convey the history and meaning of the art, allowing visitors to have deeper and more exciting experiences.

    Since early May, the two galleries have been temporarily closed. Beginning on Saturday, June 9, a portion of the Art of the American West Gallery will be temporarily reopened so visitors still can experience some of their favorite Western art works on exhibit through Aug. 6, when it will temporarily close again.

    Renovations are timed so that the Art of the American West Gallery can house the 13th annual Quest for the West® Art Show and Sale, from Sept. 7 to Oct. 7. Once completed, the reinstalled Western galleries will fully reopen to the public in mid-November. Beyond familiar works, new acquisitions will be featured, including compelling works by African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic and Native American artists.

    With only a portion of the building under renovation and the rest of the museum open as usual, there still is much for visitors to see and do at the Eiteljorg this summer. The Reel West exhibit about Hollywood Westerns remains open, as are the Native American galleries on the second floor, the two new exhibits Interwoven: Native American Basketry from the Mel and Joan Perelman Collection and Harry Fonseca: The Art of Living, and the R.B. Annis Western Family Experience downstairs. The Museum Store and Museum Café are open for business, and enjoyable programming events are held at the Eiteljorg throughout the summer.

    To conveniently plan their visits around the changes, visitors can get the latest updates by checking the Eiteljorg’s social media — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — or its website, www.eiteljorg.org, or by calling Guest Services at 317.636.WEST (9378).

     

    Image caption:

    Wilson Hurley (American, 1924 – 2008)
    October Suite, Grand Canyon, 1991
    Oil on canvas
    Museum Purchase through the generosity of Harrison Eiteljorg


    This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of Storyteller magazine. 





  • Grafton Tyler Brown: An important new acquisition

    by James H. Nottage, Vice President and Chief Curatorial Officer, Gund Curator of Western art, history and culture | Oct 24, 2017

    Grafton_Tyler_Brown_Castle_Geyser_YellowstoneVisitors to the Eiteljorg starting in November 2018 will experience beautifully reimagined Western art galleries. The best of our collections will be featured; and new experiences through technology will help convey the history and meaning of the art. The best of works from the Harrison Eiteljorg, George Gund, and K. S. “Bud” Adams collections will be shown in the best light, and will be joined by works acquired to fill gaps in the overall collection.

    The good news is that one of the newly acquired paintings is on exhibit right now, and it will be part of the galleries and our efforts to demonstrate the broader diversity of Western art by artists from many national and cultural backgrounds. Now featured in the Gund Gallery of Western Art is a notable painting by Grafton Tyler Brown.

    Born in Pennsylvania in 1841, Brown moved to San Francisco and worked as a lithographer and commercial artist. Brown was one of a small number of recognized African American painters to work in the West in the 1800s. He became known for creating and publishing cityscapes, business documents and maps. Later he was known for his paintings of the Western landscape, settling for a time in Oregon, British Columbia and Montana. His last years were spent as a draftsman and map maker in St. Paul, Minnesota.

    GraftonTylerBrown_artist_imageGrafton Tyler Brown’s depictions of Yosemite, Yellow-stone and the mountains of the Pacific Northwest are represented in a select few museum collections. Castle Geyser, Yellowstone, was sketched on-site by Brown on Sep. 6, 1890, and the canvas was completed in 1891 at his Helena, Montana, studio. The work reminds us that people with diverse roots have been a part of the Western experience, and that the traces of their lives are something we can all see and appreciate. The work also helps to expand the museum’s holdings of landscape views of the American West.





    Image Captions:

    Grafton Tyler Brown (1841-1918)
    Castle Geyser, Yellowstone, 1891, oil on canvas
    Museum purchase through the generosity of Harrison Eiteljorg

    Grafton Tyler Brown at work in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1883.
    Courtesy of Royal BC Museum, BC Archives, Victoria.

    This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of
    Storyteller magazine. 

     

     





  • Important Charles Russell Painting to Travel

    by James Nottage, Eiteljorg vice president and chief curatorial officer | Apr 09, 2014

    From the Gund Collection of Western Art, we are loaning Charles M. Russell’s important 1913 oil painting, Crippled but Still Coming to the National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  There, it will be featured in the exhibition, Harmless Hunter: The Wildlife Work of Charles M. Russell.  This notable exhibit for the first time examines a little known aspect of Russell’s art: the depiction of wildlife.  Our painting will be included in the accompanying book and will travel with the show to the Rockwell Museum of Western Art in Corning, New York, the Sam Noble Museum of the University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, and the Charles M. Russell Museum, in Great Falls, Montana.  It will be returned to the Eiteljorg in the fall of 2015.

    In place of the Russell painting, we will be featuring two wonderful watercolor paintings by the same artist that were also donated as part of the Gund collection.  Both of these works are watercolors that have been resting from light exposure for a short while.  They will go on exhibit in mid-April when Crippled But Still Coming is shipped to Wyoming. Be sure to stop in and see these wonderful watercolors.  They remind us that the artist painted a wide variety of Western subjects.  His imagination never took a rest and he once said, “if I lived a thousand years I could not paint all the things that come into my mind.”

    Charles M. Russell (American, 1864-1926)
    The Scouts, 1900
    Watercolor on paper
    The Gund Collection of Western Art, Gift of the George Gund Family


    Charles M. Russell (American, 1864-1926)
    Prairie Pirates, 1904
    Watercolor on paper
    The Gund Collection of Western Art, Gift of the George Gund Family


    Charles M. Russell (American, 1864-1926)
    Crippled But Still Coming, 1913
    Oil on canvas
    The Gund Collection of Western Art, Gift of the George Gund Family

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  • Eiteljorg Western Collection | Catharine Critcher's PUEBLO FAMILY

    by James Nottage, Eiteljorg vice president and chief curatorial officer Gund/Western Art | Feb 27, 2014


    Catharine Carter Critcher
    Pueblo Family
    Oil on canvas, 1928
    Gift Courtesy of Harrison Eiteljorg
     

                During the first week of March, one of the notable Taos paintings in our collection will be going off of exhibit.  Why? Change in the museum is constant and motivated by many factors.  Sometimes we have an opportunity to show something new, sometimes a work goes off of exhibit for conservation treatment, and sometimes highly important works are loaned to other museums for traveling exhibitions.  Such is the case with Catharine Critcher’s, Pueblo Family, an oil painted in 1928.

                Catharine Critcher (1868-1964) was the only female member of the Taos Society of Artists.  She first visited New Mexico in 1922 and was asked, along with E. Martin Hennings, to join this group of prominent artists in 1924.  For several years, she went to Taos each summer and is reported to have said that “Taos is unlike any place God ever made.  . . . There are models galore and no phones, the artists all live in these attractive funny little adobe houses away from the world, food, foes and friends.” Critcher traveled to the Southwest in 1928  and spent two months sketching and painting among the Hopi in Arizona. She was best known for portraits along with some floral works and landscapes.  Critcher studied art in New York, Washington, D.C., and Paris. In France, she operated an art school for four years, but returned to the United States to teach at the Corcoran School of Art.  The same year she joined the Taos Society she opened her own school in Washington, D.C., where she worked until 1940. 

                Pueblo Family is one of Critcher’s best known Southwestern paintings.  By including portrait and still life elements it combines those genre for which the artist is best known. The first stop on the painting’s up-coming journey will not be that far away.  Eloquent Objects: Georgia O'Keeffe and Still-Life Painting in New Mexico opens at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (October 30, 2014- January 25, 2015) and then travels to the Tacoma Museum of Art (March 1, 2015-June , 2015). Upon returning to the Eiteljorg Museum, Pueblo Family will be placed back in the Art of the American West gallery.

     

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