A. R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art
A.R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art
150 E. Main Street, Trinidad, CO 81082
Phone (719) 846-4224
Hours of Operation
Open Thursday-Saturday 10:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m.
Closed Monday through Wednesday
Admission $5 Adults Children 10 and under are FREE
The Museum Season opens in late May and runs through late October. Please visit our website for current yearly opening and closing dates.
Arthur Roy Mitchell painted iconic western scenes featuring cowboys, horses, cattle and vast beautiful landscapes that captured the hearts and minds of pulp western readers from the 1920's to today. Mitchell's life growing up immersed in the last golden days of the old west set the stage for his love of all things western and his artistic talent and training allowed him to become one of the most influential cowboy artists of his time in the great tradition of Frederick Remington and Charles M. Russell. From the 1920s through the 1940s, Mitchell painted over 160 images for western books and magazines giving him the title "King of the Western Pulp Cover Painters." Many of his original paintings can be seen in the museum. Mitchell painted the cowboy in action with pistol drawn, riding a bucking bronco, wrestling a steer and roping cattle. His covers for True West, Western Story, Ace-High, Cowboy Stories and many more pulp magazines were in his words "Paintings of the real cowboy, not the movie variety". Many famous writers of the day including Zane Grey, Max Brand and Jack London wrote stories for the pulp magazines and Mitchell was a very successful cover artist for almost all of these popular publications. The largest collection of his work is proudly displayed at the A.R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art in his home town of Trinidad.
Mitchell was a prolific landscape painter throughout his lifetime. Most of the landscapes in the museum do not have a date attributed to them. Some were painted during his summer trips back to the west during the 1920s-1940s and some were painted after he moved back permanently to Trinidad in 1945. Adobes, horses and cattle are often seen and the locations are as varied as the colorful western landscape of mountains, mesas and high deserts.
The Museum's Collection
The A.R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art is also home to an outstanding collection of Western paintings by Mitchell's teacher and close friend Harvey Dunn. Dunn, a Westerner and North Dakota native, studied under famous artist Howard Pyle and was Mitchell's teacher at the Grand Central School of Art in New York City. Dunn gifted many paintings to Mitchell throughout his lifetime and they stayed close friends. The last letter Dunn wrote on his death bed was to his dear friend Arthur Mitchell. Dunn was a successful illustrator during his lifetime and many of his cover illustrations could be seen at newsstands along side Mitchell's.
The museum also exhibits paintings from Mitchell's friend and illustrator, Harold Von Schmidt. Von Schmidt was an American illustrator who specialized in interior magazine illustrations. Born in California, in 1924 he moved to New York City and entered the Grand Central School of Art and also studied with teacher Harvey Dunn. Arthur Mitchell became close friends with Von Schmidt during this time and often spent holidays with the Von Schmidt family in Connecticut. Harold Von Schmidt's work appeared primarily inside magazines like Collier's Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Liberty, The Saturday Evening Post, and Sunset Magazine. Von Schmidt also gifted many paintings to his friend Mitchell, many of which are on display at the museum.
Mitchell was an avid collector of many things throughout his life. On view at the museum are just some of the many antique saddles, old west artifacts, implements and memorabilia Mitchell collected and often used as reference material for his paintings. Many of Mitchell's paintings feature vintage fire arms which may also be seen at the museum along side his Pulp covers in which they were featured.
Mitchell collected Native American Indian items such as Navajo rugs, Native American Indian pottery from Tesuque, Santa Clara, San Idelfonso, San Juan and Taos pueblos, baskets, clothing and various artifacts.The museum's collection also includes vintage photographs from photographer George Benjamin Wittick (1845-1903). Wittick photographed Native Americans like the Hopi and our collection includes portraits, landscapes as well as the famous and mysterious Hopi Snake Dance Ceremony. Mitchell made many trips to the Southwest collecting items and taking photographs.
The museum is also home to a collection of Hispanic Traditional and Religious Art featuring Retablos, Santos, tin work and furniture. Retablos are small folk art, oil paintings on metal or wood that were used in home altars to exalt Catholic saints in the 17th, 18th, and 19th century Mexican culture. Mitchell's landscape paintings featured many Hispanic adobe structures throughout his long career.
The museum's historical photography collection includes photographs taken by Oliver E. Aultman, Benjamin Wittick, and Almeron Newman from the late 1800's through the 20th century. Oliver E. Aultman (1867-1953), a transplant from Missouri, began the Aultman Studio in Trinidad in October 1889 and was known for his portrait work. Almeron Newman (1875-1964) a Michigan native who moved to New Mexico in 1899 and then settled in Trinidad in 1909 where he was a self-employed, commercial photographer known for his panoramic photography of landscapes, towns and large groups of people.
The A.R. Mitchell museum is housed in the historic Jamieson Department Store, a 1906 Western-style building that still retains its original pressed-tin ceilings, wood floors and a spectacular horseshoe-shaped mezzanine. Many visitors are so overwhelmed with the beautiful building and it's original fixtures they have a hard time looking down. The Jamieson Family Store operated from 1906 until the late 1980s selling clothing, household goods, furniture and even caskets to the Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico population. The incredible architecture is the perfect home for the museum's outstanding Western Art collections and historic photography.
Arthur Roy Mitchell's Legacy
After reigning over the Western Pulps for several decades, Mitchell was diagnosed with cancer and by the start of World War II, he was also tired of the crowded East Coast and the stubborn new editors of the pulps. He decided to shut down his painting career in the East and return home to help raise cattle on his sister Tot's ranch outside of Trinidad. Mitchell produced many paintings during his three years on the ranch, many are of the beautiful Stonewall area of Colorado, where the ranch was located. In 1945 at the end of the war, Mitchell's sister and brother in-law decided to sell their ranch and move to Denver. Around that time Mitchell was asked by the president of Trinidad State Junior College if he would consider teaching art classes. In 1944 Mitchell agreed to a two year teaching career but ended up teaching until 1958. Many of Mitchell's students went on to become successful artists, photographers and teachers. One of Mitchell's students Thomas Barnett, who went on to study art in Paris, said of Mitchell "He was elite in the Jefferson vein. He loved the Southwestern landscape and the Western culture. He loved art, and he loved to paint; this is what he taught. He taught me to love art, to paint, and to appreciate the Western culture, the adobe, the Indian, and the cowboy."
Mitchell's love of history led him to yet another role as a local preservationist. In 1955, hearing that the first house built in Trinidad, an adobe structure owned by Trinidad founder Felipe Baca, was for sale and could possibly be demolished and turned into a gas station he jumped into action. Mitchell wrote "If it is possible for a house filled with history and nostalgia to get right in the middle of an old man's life and cause him to do things he ought not to do, that is the case with the Baca house." Mitchell and several friends quickly purchased the building and he petitioned the City to preserve it and create a museum. The City agreed but only if Mitchell would come on as curator. Mitchell donated a large collection of western memorabilia, personal photographs of the southwest from 1910 on, historical guns he used as props for his paintings, and historical documents he had collected and cherished for many years. He also was crucial in obtaining the Bloom Mansion so that it could be added to the now named Pioneer Museum crown. Mitchell stayed on as curator and historian for the Trinidad Historic District for 17 years until 1975, just two years before his death.