The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990 Page: 82
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82 Southwestern Historical Quarterly
What is the significance of these collections and these expensive
"brag books"? ' They certainly show that interest in western art is alive
and more extensive and sophisticated than ever. They also seem to
present a world of connoisseurship galaxies apart from many, though
not all, of the staid museums of the East. Besides an emphasis on ar-
tistic quality, these western collections and their catalogues are very
closely related to history. In two out of three of these examples, it ap-
pears that significant works of art were acquired to memorialize the his-
tory of the Great West. One finds it difficult to identify an eastern mu-
seum with the same mission in regard to its regional history. In general
terms (the National Museum of American Art and the National Por-
trait Gallery in Washington, D.C., excepted) the eastern and midwest-
ern museum holdings seem definitely to downplay American history in
American art as a criterion for collection, in favor of the "great tradi-
tion" of Western European trends, or else they take pains to celebrate
"primitive" art from the Third World. Their mission is to broaden
the taste of the unwashed "proles" and blank-slate children who swarm
these museums. The eastern art museums are dead solid bastions
against the presumed taste of the Norman Rockwell middle class (ex-
cuse me Philadelphia, home of the Norman Rockwell Museum).
Museums dedicated to western art, on the other hand, as these three
volumes indicate, celebrate not only history-the Americans' conquest
of a continent to the west-but also the basic, unfolding creation myth
of the culture with its immortal worldwide heroes of a thousand predic-
aments, the cowboy and the Indian. Only Mickey Mouse is better known
around the world, and he comes from the West as well. Deep cultural
roots and genuine cultural empathy, as opposed to the celebration of
mere technique, can be found in these western collections and these
"brag books" that have a quality all their own.
'SThis reviewer does not intend to disparage either the collections or the collectors by the use
of the term "brag books." This is merely an implied comparison with the Native American cus-
tom of recording one's exploits on a buffalo skin, which came to be called "brag skins."
Opposite page: This photograph of Austin in 1876 looks north up Congress
Avenue toward the old State Capitol building at the head of the avenue.
Founded 150 years ago in 1839, Austin was only six years old when the
Sandusky watercolor on the cover of this issue was painted. Only three decades
had passed when this photograph was taken, but already Austin was no longer
a small frontier village.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990, periodical, 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/m1/108/: accessed November 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.