Denver has many well known and well loved museums, but the American Museum of Western Art is a treasure you may not be familiar with. It holds over 300 paintings from the private collection of Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz. Visitors to this museum are treated to a collection of Western Art from the early 1800’s to the present day.
This compelling collection is housed in the Navarre Building, which sits directly across the street from the Brown Palace Hotel. The Navarre has its own interesting history. It was built in 1880 as a school for young women, but later became a bordello. Apparently, a tunnel ran underneath the street connecting the Navarre and the Brown Palace to ensure the privacy of the Brown Palace guests as they visited the Navarre’s “ladies of the night”. The Navarre eventually gained respectability around 1904 through the efforts of Robert Speer, Denver’s mayor at that time.
The paintings in the American Museum of Western Art are displayed mostly chronologically, so visitors get a clear sense of the changes in the Western landscape over time, as well as the development of different artistic styles. Early painters include expeditionary artists like George Catlin who depicted ceremonies and lifestyles of the early 1800’s. There are also works by Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Remington and Charles Russell. In addition to the expected representations of rifles, buffalo, and the American frontier, there are also many more modern works. Some artists, such as Ernest Blumenschein, belonged to the Taos Society of Artists and their art portrays the developing communities of Taos and Santa Fe.
Be sure to check the American Museum of Western Art’s website at, anschutzcollection.org before you visit, as it is open limited hours. Photography is not permitted inside the museum.