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Park City Museum exhibit gives a European view of America’s Frontier

Tie-in lecture and family-friendly activities scheduled

‘Viewed from Afar: European Prints of the American Frontier West, 1759-1908’

  • When: Through Aug. 21
  • Where: Park City Museum, 528 Main St.
  • Cost: Free with Museum admission
  • Web: parkcityhistory.org

Lee Silliman lecture

  • When: 5 p.m., Thursday, June 30
  • Where: Park City Museum’s Education and Collections Center, 2079 Sidewinder Drive
  • Cost: Free
  • Registration: parkcityhistory.org/events

Family Activity

  • When: 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 23
  • Where: Park City Museum, 528 Main St.
  • Cost: Free with museum admission
  • Web: parkcityhistory.org
Theodor Breitweiser’s “Buffalo Hunt” is one of the chromolithographs in the Park City Museum’s new exhibit, “Viewed from Afar: European Prints of the American Frontier West, 1759-1908,” which is on display through Aug. 21. The exhibit features vintage and mostly 19th-century prints that were published in various magazines, journals and newspapers in Europe.
David Jackson/Park Record

A new exhibit at the Park City Museum will give patrons insight into Europeans’ perspectives of what America was like during the late 19th century.

“Viewed from Afar: European Prints of the American Frontier West, 1759-1908” will show through Aug. 21, said Courtney Titus, the Park City Museum’s curator of collections and exhibits. 

“This exhibit features vintage mostly 19th century prints that were published in various magazines, journals and newspapers in Europe, specifically in England, France, and Germany,” she said. “It focuses on the information given to Europeans and the Europeans’ perceptions of the American Frontier West.”



The exhibit, which is composed of wood or steel engraved prints, copper engravings or chromolithographs, also touches on Manifest Destiny and how the Europeans’ cultures, histories and countries played into shaping their opinions about the West, Titus said.

“Some of the prints are based on original work by artists who were actually in America and saw things first hand,:” she said. “Those images are accurate as to what was happening here at the time.”



Other images were based on second-hand accounts by people who had never been to America or had left the East Coast but heard or read descriptions of things and events, Titus said.

“Then you have, yet, another category, where the art is completely fanciful and made up, based on the artist’s imagination,” she said. “There was a huge demand for this type of content, because there was an influx of fictitious novels about the frontier that people devoured over there.”

Adding to the obsession was Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show that toured Europe between 1887 and 1906, Titus said.

The trick is figuring out which pieces of art were accurate and which weren’t, she said.

One of the artists, Carl Bodmer, spent time in the West, and his works are accurate. Some, including works by Ferdinand Delannoy, have a more European take, especially when depicting Native Americans, according to Titus.

“One of his works shows a boy with curly hair, which was probably not real,” she said. “But you really have to look at each piece closely to see these depictions.”

Park City Museum visitors can take in the wood or steel engraved prints, copper engravings or chromolithographs of the “Viewed from Afar: European Prints of the American Frontier West, 1759-1908” that is currently showing through Aug. 21.
David Jackson/Park Record

Getting close to the art — hand tinted or black and white isn’t difficult, Titus said.

“These are fairly small prints that draw you in, so you have to examine them closely and look at all the details,” she said.

In addition to Native American life, the works also cover topics such as geological features and indigenous plants and animals, according to Titus.

Europeans were amazed by the geological features, such as geysers and sequoia trees, she said.

The art also had diverse effects on those who saw them, Titus said.

“It differed from country to country, person to person, but many of the images inspired people to travel to America,” she said. “They came because they wanted to see these things for themselves or make a new life for themselves. Many of them also felt sympathy for Native Americans.”

“Viewed from Afar: European Prints of the American Frontier West, 1759-1908” isn’t installed in any particular order, Titus said.

“So people can wander about and look at the ones that draw them in,” she said.

The exhibit is culled from the Lee Silliman Print Collection, which is based in Montana.

“Lee, who is a large-format photographer, is the curator, and he collected all the prints and information,” Titus said. “He also had them all framed in hardwood, white maple frames.”

Silliman will be in Park City on Thursday, June 30, she said.

He will be at the gallery from 2-4 p.m. to answer questions and talk about the exhibit. Then he’ll give a lecture at 5 p.m. at the museum’s Education and Collections Center, 2079 Sidewinder Drive (see box for registration information).

“We’re excited to have him,” Titus said.

In addition to Silliman’s appearances, the Park City Museum will host a family activity put together by museum assistant Lexy Hartford from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 23.

Youths ages 7 to 17 can try their hand at printmaking and create prints of animals and plants, Titus said.

They will learn the names of the animals in four different languages and receive passport stickers for each completed task, she said.


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