William Keith, (two figures below a mountain cliff with campfire), 1872, oil on canvas, 18 x 14" Gift in Memory of Drs. Fritiof and Regina Fryxell, Augustana College Art Collection.
American Landscape Featuring the Fryxell Collection, October 11-December 18
This Augustana College Art Museum exhibition celebrates the addition of the collection that was owned by Drs. Fritiof and Regina Fryxell, gifted by Dr. Reynold Holmén. The opening reception will take place during 10:00-11 a.m. on Saturday, October 11. Class tours are welcome, contact Sherry Maurer. Visitors are encouraged to tour Dr. Fryxell's legacy, the Fryxell Geology Museum, for Dinosaurs to Diamonds and Fossils to Fluorescent Minerals, Swenson Hall of Geosciences.
While Dr. Fritiof Fryxell '22 (1900-1986, based in Moline/Rock Island, Illinois) is best remembered as the Augustana geology professor who provided the nucleus of the Fryxell Geology Museum, he was also an advocate for American landscape artists. As ranger-naturalist for the newly created (1929) Grand Teton National Park, Fryxell was charged with the responsibility of developing a park visitor center. Following his goal to highlight artists who were historically active there, he eventually collaborated with Ruth Moran, the daughter of Thomas Moran (1837-1926) to produce the first biography published on Moran, titled Thomas Moran: Explorer in Search of Beauty (1958).
Dr. Regina Fryxell, trained at the Augustana Conservatory and the Juilliard School as a pianist, organist and composer, was the plucky camper sharing a tent in the Tetons for the summer with her naturalist husband. She continued as a mother, and as supporter for her husband's activities. The Fryxell family saw both joy and tragedy. For these scholars, the process of learning about the wonder and strength of nature included study through the lens of art, even in the portrayal of a son killed in his prime.
Along the way, Fryxell promoted and collected works by other artists such as Birger Sandzén, William Henry Jackson, Gunnar Widforss and Olaf Rupert Moller. Thus this display also includes pieces from the Augustana College Art Collection by artists Fryxell promoted, especially as part of his involvement in the Augustana Art Association. Materials in the Augustana College Tredway Library Special Collections archives show the influence of his collecting interests on this volunteer group. It should be noted that the artists he admired were not overly popular at the time. Many, such as Moran and Jackson, appeared to be "has-beens" as their naturalistic landscapes were challenged by modern stylization and abstraction. Later generations have come round to again value these artists, and paintings by Sandzén are particularly sought now.
With generous assistance of the Fryxell Geology Museum, we include some rock samples associated with his efforts, as well as examples of his tools and publications. Special Collections of the Tredway Library has provided assistance for the photographs of both Drs. Fryxell. In several ways, Dr. Fryxell made an important contribution to American art history as an art supporter and artist biographer. This exhibition presents, in a newly restored brilliance, a major selection of the art that enhanced the Fryxell home, now gifted as an enduring educational resource housed in the Augustana College Art Collection.
The following text panel provides excerpts from pages one through four of Fritiof Fryxell's Introduction in his second significant publication on Moran, Home-Thoughts, from Afar: Letters of Thomas Moran to Mary Nimmo Moran (1967).
For several summers prior to 1929, I [Fritiof Fryxell] was engaged in geological investigations in the Teton-Jackson Hole region of western Wyoming. During this period, a bill was introduced before Congress calling for extension of Yellowstone National Park southward to include the most rugged portion of the magnificent Teton Range, which long had been considered for inclusion in the National Park System. The bill failed of passage. However, in the winter of 1928-1929, Congress approved a substitute bill, and this was signed by President Calvin Coolidge on February 26, 1929. By the act, the Teton area, instead of being annexed to Yellowstone, became a new and separate addition to the National Park System, under the name of Grand Teton National Park.
Earlier, questions about the proposed park had led to my correspondence with government officials, and as a consequence, the Director of the National Park Service, Horace M. Albright, in March, 1929, appointed me naturalist (acting) of the four-man ranger staff first assigned to the administration of Grand Teton National Park. Thus, starting in July, 1929, it was my privilege to initiate an interpretative program for the new park. This entailed such varied activities as compiling scientific and historical information, giving campfire talks, helping to plan a system of trails, preparing a brochure on the park, and-what is pertinent to this account-securing study and exhibit material for a park museum.
….It was hoped that the new museum might give emphasis to the artist-explorer, Thomas Moran, because of his significant place in the early history of the region. Also, the tentative museum site provided a sweeping panoramic view of the range that was dominated, to the northwest, by towering Mount Moran. (My personal interest in Moran went back to earliest boyhood, having been awakened by his superb illustrations in government reports and other books on the west.) Moran had died three years earlier, on August 25, 1926, but his surviving relatives included two daughters residing in the east. At the first opportunity, therefore, on September 27, 1929, I wrote to the younger daughter, Miss Ruth B. Moran, at East Hampton, New York, setting forth the possibilities in the proposed museum for a Thomas Moran display.
….The acquaintance with Miss Moran begun through these circumstances developed into a close friendship that continued until her death, nearly two decades later, and the Teton venture proved to be the first of several joint undertakings.