CHICKASHA — A prominent Oklahoma family's gifts — ranging from rare photos to master prints — are on view at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. A selection of premier works from the collection donated to USAO by Margot Nesbitt and her late husband,
Charles Nesbitt had served as Oklahoma's attorney general, corporation commissioner and energy secretary, and his wife Margot retired as Reverend Canon at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Oklahoma City. Faded, brown-hued photos of Indian chiefs taken in or around Fort Sill between 1870 and 1874, by frontier photographer Will Soule, supply one of the show's most striking elements.
Kiowa Chief Stumbling Bear stares back at us intently, wearing what looks like an Army coat, and Chief Solora, son of Santana, looks thoughtfully past us at an angle, his face framed by a single braid.
Equally striking, and unforgettable, are anonymous photos of “The Birth of Oklahoma City,” with tents giving way to buildings, some still under construction, in the days and weeks after the Land Run.
A bank sign leads our eyes into a bustling scene of horses, buggies and people walking on “Oklahoma Avenue” on May 13, 1889, in one picture, while a survey crew poses with its equipment in front of a tent in another.
Rivaling the impact of these photos is that of superb prints by such artists Albrecht Durer, Francisco Goya, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Raoul Dufy and Pablo Picasso.
A richly robed figure, perhaps the artist himself, confronts us directly, standing between a half man-half ram and an angel standing on a globe, in Durer's “Allegory on the Christian Knight” woodcut.
Two avaricious characters seem to be tearing apart and devouring a bird-woman under the uncaring gaze of a third man, in “How They Are Plucking Her,” a woodcut from Goya's “Los Caprichos.”
A “dirty old man” makes moves on a glamorous, sharp-featured courtesan in a box “At the Opera” in Lautrec's lithograph, and the moon rises or sets on “The River at Battersea” in Whistler's nocturne.
Riders parade in front of spectators at “Epsom” in a sketchy but vivid-hued serigraph by Dufy, and Picasso reduces a musical instrument to a black-and-white intersection of cubist planes in a woodcut.
In other notable works, Fernand Leger juxtaposes a pastel-shade “Face and Vase” in a serigraph, and Alberto Giacometti depicts a “Seated Nude Figure” with a thin tracery of lines in a lithograph.
Heralded by campus banners, a plaque celebrating the Nesbitt legacy and improvements to the gallery itself, the inaugural exhibit in the gallery is highly recommended during its run through Aug. 31.
— John Brandenburg