Wild West: Plains to the Pacific, now open at the Legion of Honor, includes more than 170 works—from John Raphael Smith’s mezzotint, The Widow of an Indian Chief Watching Over the Arms of her Deceased Husband made in 1789, to photographs of the central valley taken by Matt Black in 2014—to trace an ever-changing sense of America’s frontier. We talked to the exhibition curators, Jim Ganz and Colleen Terry, about what visitors can expect.
This exhibition is made up entirely from works in our own collection. Does that present any special opportunities?
Jim Ganz: This is a chance to see some old favorites from the de Young in completely new contexts at the Legion of Honor, paired with works that they wouldn’t ordinarily be paired with. For example, Albert Bierstadt’s California Spring reflects the long tradition of European landscape painting, and it’s an idealized, bucolic view of the Sacramento Valley. Robert Bechtle’s Four Palm Trees, on view in the same gallery, was painted at Dixon, CA, only about 20 miles from the location depicted in the Bierstadt.