The Denver Artists Guild: Its Founding Members, An Illustrated History
Colorado History and University Press of Colorado, 2015, USBN 978-0-942576-58-0
By Stan Cuba
260 pages, 9×11, color, 187 figures, paper, $39.95; also available as ebook
Reviewed by Virginia McConnell Simmons
In 1928, a vibrant group of 52 artists formed the Denver Artists Guild, and for a quarter century this group enjoyed a well-deserved reputation for the high quality of their artistry and workmanship. Images in this book, biographical essays about each artist, and the knowledgeability of author Stan Cuba and the book’s other collaborators make this an outstanding contribution, whether the person holding it is a working artist or an appreciator of fine art and of this state’s social history. The Denver Artists Guild may further encourage people to enjoy firsthand viewing of art works by taking a walking tour of the public locations in Denver (a map is included) or by taking a driving tour, mainly but not exclusively limited to the Front Range.
A scholarly but very readable introduction offers a 40-page overview of activities in the arts in Colorado during that period, followed by about 200 pages of delectable illustrations and short texts. In addition to murals, there are painting, pottery, sculpture, carving and photography. Subjects include exquisite landscapes, Native Americans, early West, towns, industries, portraits, wildlife, dioramas and even bronze doors. Styles are mainly traditional but to a lesser extent modernist also.
Among the most familiar works are Allen True’s eight murals depicting major themes in Colorado history, which are in the rotunda of Colorado’s state capitol; but all 52 artists and artisans, many of whose names are still familiar today, are too numerous to discuss in this review. Their subjects, mediums, representative pieces and patrons who sponsored them provide a look at the period and this high-water mark of creativity, though.
Were any of the guild’s members from Central Colorado? Loyalty compels me, a resident of the San Luis Valley, to mention Charles Des Moineaux, whose day job was the telephone company at Creede and elsewhere, while his passion was landscape painting. Albert Bancroft, a member of a well-known Denver family, had a getaway at Bailey and did Colorado landscapes, including one of Crestone Peak that appears in this volume. The great majority of members of the Denver Artists Guild, however, were from Denver or other cities along the Front Range.
The Denver Artists Guild offers a feast for eyes and minds, and at an unusually affordable price, mirabile dictu.