Venetian Red Notebook: Allen Tupper True, Painter of the American West

by Christine Cariati

Allen Tupper True, Self PortraitAllen Tupper True, Self-Portrait, undated
Photo courtesy Anne True

Colorado artist Allen Tupper True (1881-1955) was a muralist, easel painter and illustrator. His paintings have a distinctive and unique palette that beautifully capture the color and light of the American West. As a young man, True studied with illustrator Howard Pyle and he later apprenticed with renowned Welsh muralist Frank Brangwyn.

Allen Tupper True, HuntingPartyAllen Tupper True, The Hunting Party, 1914
Photo: Ira Schrank

Inspired by the beauty of the western landscape and his admiration for the people of the western United States, True produced a wonderful body of work that also provides an important historical record. He was a student of all aspects of the American West, including Native American culture and the stories and lives of pioneers, trappers and miners. His knowledge was not purely academic—whenever possible, he lived the life he painted. True had a profound understanding and respect for Native American culture and religion. His oil paintings give us a first-hand look into their daily lives and his sketches and watercolors of their clothing and design motifs provide accurate and invaluable documentation of these artifacts.

Allen Tupper True, JicarillaSpringAllen Tupper True, Jicarilla Spring, 1913
Photo: Ira Schrank

Allen Tupper True, Mounted Indians Passing TeepeesAllen Tupper True, Mounted Indians Passing Teepees, undated
Photo: Ira Schrank

Among True’s many public and private commissions were murals painted for the State Houses of Colorado, Wyoming and Missouri.

Allen Tupper True, Homesteaders, WYAllen Tupper True, Homesteaders, 1918
Mural, Wyoming State Capitol
Photo: Marcia Ward

Allen Tupper True, History of WaterAllen Tupper True, History of Water in the West
Sixth in a series or eight murals for the Colorado State Capitol, Denver Colorado, 1934-40
Photo: Marcia Ward

A three-part exhibition of Allen Tupper True’s work at the Denver Art Museum’s Petrie Institute of Western Art, the Denver Public Library and the Colorado History Museum opens in October 2009.

Recommended reading: Allen Tupper True: An American Artist by Jere True and Victoria Tupper Kirby. This biography, written by his daughter and granddaughter, narrates True’s life and work by means of letters, diaries and family history and is lavishly illustrated.

Allen Tupper True, Indian DesignAllen Tupper True, Sketch of Indian Design, undated
Photo: Ira Schrank

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2 Responses to “Venetian Red Notebook: Allen Tupper True, Painter of the American West”

  1. Very concise and illuminating piece on Allen True and his work. Thank you for spreading the word.

  2. I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to see his work in person. Viewing True’s paintings of Native Americans, one really has the sense that he knew, respected and cared deeply about their culture, that he wasn’t painting something “exotic” for effect—instead you definitely feel something of their point of view, that you are in their midst, and for that to happen the respect must have been mutual.

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