Growing Up with the Anschultz Collection
Hunt, Sarah Anschutz, Southwest Art
THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS EXCERPTED WITH PERMISSION FROM AN ESSAY BY SARAH ANSCHUTZ HUNT, THE DAUGHTER OF COLORADO COLLECTOR AND BUSINESSMAN PHILIP ANSCHUTZ. THE ESSAY IS INCLUDED IN THE NEW BOOK PAINTERS AND THE AMERICAN WEST, PUBLISHED ON THE OCCASION OF AN EXHIBITION OF THE SAME NAME. THE EXHIBITION IS ON VIEW AT THE DENVER ART MUSEUM THROUGH JANUARY 21, AFTER WHICH IT TRAVELS TO THE CORCORAN GALLERY OF ART, THE JOSLYN ART MUSEUM, AND THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO.
s someone who grew up with the Anschutz Collection, I am particu.I...larly glad to have this chance to reflect on my father's art collection from the distance of a few years and several thousand miles. On the eve of the collection's first showing in Denver, it seems like a good time to review the three decades of our shared history.
For as long as I can remember, the art collection assembled by my father, Philip Anschutz, has been an important part of my family's life. My parents began taking my brother, sister, and me to Anschutz Collection openings from the time we could be trusted to behave ourselves at grown-up events. Since my father preferred not to show his collection in Denver, such occasions were invariably exciting for the three of us because they always involved traveling outside Colorado. Although we may not have understood the importance of these functions at the time, we enjoyed walking around the exhibitions with Dad, looking at the paintings and listening to him tell romantic stories about the Old West.
The passion and enthusiasm that my father passed on to the three of us stemmed from his own lifelong interest in history and particularly in the development of the American West. Inspired by this interest and driven by his desire to put together a comprehensive survey collection of western American art, he has built an extraordinary collection that spans nearly 180 years of American history. Today, the Anschutz Collection comprises over 650 paintings and drawings by more than 200 artists from the early 1800s to the present.
y father began collecting art in the early 1960s, just as he was finishing college, largely under the influence of my grandmother. Although Marian Pfister Anschutz was neither a collector nor an art expert herself, she wanted my father and his sister to be knowledgeable in many areas and encouraged them to cultivate different interests and hobbies, including an appreciation for fine art. She strongly believed in exposing her children to art and culture at an early age and would often take them to local museums in Kansas. Throughout my father's childhood, when the family took trips across the country and to Europe, my grandmother saw to it that they visited important museums and historical sites.
My father studied history and business at the University of Kansas but continued to enlarge his knowledge of art by reading books and articles and independently pursuing research in American art. Shortly after finishing his degree, he took the final step in his education as a collector by simply beginning to collect. As he began to have some success in business, my father continually put money aside for investing in the art that he loved.
By the end of the 1960s, my father was well on his way to building a significant collection of American paintings. Early on in his collecting career, he began to develop the concept of a specialized collection with a central theme, rather than a jumble of isolated examples. His vision was to assemble a survey collection that documented the history of American painting by focusing on a single locale, the western United States. But in addition to surveying the development of American painting in the West, he wanted his collection to illustrate how each generation chose to represent the West and the impact their work had on succeeding generations of artists.
His most significant acquisition in terms of the development of the collection was a group of paintings purchased from the Santa Fe Railroad in 1972. …