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Exhibit features art of Gold Rush era

Submitted photo"American Progress," by John Gast, 1872, Western History Collection, Denver Public Library is part of the "Rush to the Rockies" exhibit on display at the Colorado Mountain College gallery.
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A new Colorado Mountain College exhibit brings to life the fervor that artists of the 1800s created during the western Gold Rush.

“Rush to the Rockies” features 13 artists from the late 1800s and early 1900s whose work propelled prospective land buyers into an unprecedented rush to Colorado and the untamed West. The art will be displayed at the CMC gallery at Ninth Street and Grand Avenue from Dec. 5 through Jan. 23.

Railroad-sponsored newspaper articles, travel guides and art books triggered a drive for eastern Americans and Europeans to change their lives and fortunes forever, seeking gold, glory and homesteading amidst America’s Rocky Mountain grandeur.



The featured artists’ creativity fueled as many as 100,000 people to weather dusty trails to cross the Great Plains in the year 1857 alone. Tales of gold and silver strikes enhanced by art images of rugged landscapes created boomtowns built on slim promise.

“Rush to the Rockies” features art from the collection of Nelson “Buz” Rieger, a historical Western America collector from Colorado Springs, curated by the Denver Public Library.



“In the early nineteenth century, eastern Americans considered the western wilderness threatening and hostile, but by 1840 writers and artists were beginning to glorify nature,” Rieger said.

The eastern American public discovered the wonders of western scenery when Albert Bierstadt began producing spectacular western paintings in the 1860s.

“Americans saw a west, monumental in scale, untouched and untamed. They saw the west in romantic terms ” exciting and beautiful. Newspapers such as Harper’s Weekly and Leslie’s gave many of their readers their first view of the land west of the Mississippi,” Rieger said. “Art magazines, such as The Aldine and

Picturesque America, provided their readers with illustrations of scenery from all parts of the country. Poet Walt Whitman asked Americans why they would go to Europe when they could more easily go to Colorado.”

Henry David Thoreau concurred, with his words published in 1862:

“Eastward I go only by force; but westward I go free. … I must walk toward Oregon, and not toward Europe. And that way the nation is moving, and I may say that mankind progress(es) from east to west.”

See “Rush to the Rockies” at the CMC gallery from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The gallery will be closed from noon on Dec. 22 through Jan. 2.


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