Charles Deas West

Editorial Staff Exhibitions

During the 1840s Charles Deas, a scion of the wealthy antebellum Izard family of South Carolina, painted dramatic images of the American West that captured the young nation’s uncertainty about its future—and the imagination of a vast viewing public. Late in the decade, however, he slid into insanity (he spent almost half of his fortyeight years in asylums), and both his works and the stories they told largely disappeared. On August 21 an exhibition of almost forty of Deas’s paintings and works on paper will open in an exclusive showing at the Denver Art Museum, where they will remain on view until November 28.

Co-organized by the museum and guest curator Carol Clark, the exhibition is the result of years of research reconstructing Deas’s life and tracking down and interpreting his works, which are often highly enigmatic, especially for viewers today. Drawing from literature, his own experience, folk lore, and history, they address the many political, cultural, and economic ambiguities brought on by the white man’s early incursion into the west of the American Indian. These themes are explored in greater depth in the excellent accompanying catalogue.

Charles Deas and 1840s America · Denver Art Museum ·August 21 to November 28 ·

Photo: Sioux Playing Ball by Charles Deas (1818–1867), 1843. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma.