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Mary E. Burke may well have the best job in Fort Worth, Texas. As director of the Sid Richardson Museum, she gets to hang around Charles M. Russell and Frederic Remington all day.

In 1982 the art museum opened in a restored building at the heart of “Cowtown’s” historic Sundance Square. After 15 years on staff, including stints as the Richardson’s director of education, Burke was named museum director in 2012. And her job satisfaction got another boost last summer when the museum launched two premier exhibits. Running through September, “Frederic Remington: Altered States” features works from or attributed to the iconic artist, while “Legacy” showcases more than 30 signature works by Remington, Russell and contemporaries from the museum collection, as well as three Remington sculptures, one Russell sculpture and one Russell painting on loan from private collections.

A cowboy and his horse recoil in surprise in a casting of Remington’s bronze “The Rattlesnake.” (Sid Richardson Museum)

“Altered States” centers on three reputed Remington paintings in the Sid Richardson collection—one a clear fraud, one altered by the artist and one whose provenance remains in question. Museumgoers can also compare an original casting of Remington’s 1905 bronze The Rattlesnake with a later one he deemed “greatly improved.”

“Russell and Remington lived through a period of rapid changes in the West,” Burke says, “and ‘Legacy’ shows their efforts to preserve the frontier before it disappeared.” The exhibit opens on Russell’s Western Scene (The Shelton Saloon Painting), which he rendered in 1885 to hang above the bar in James R. Shelton’s hotel-saloon in Utica, Montana Territory. The young artist lacked oil paints or a canvas, Burke notes, so he executed the piece with house paints on a pine board. “Our Russell collection covers a really broad spectrum of his early works,” Burke says. “Visitors can see by his paintings how he grew as a self-taught artist.”

The Remington section of “Legacy,” which opens with his 1899 oil on canvas Captured, includes five paintings—Taint on the Wind (1906), Apache Medicine Song (1908), A Figure of the Night (1908), The Luckless Hunter (1909) and The Love Call (1909)—he rendered toward the end of his relatively short life (1861–1909). “These nocturnals are five stellar examples of Remington’s experimentation with Impressionism,” Burke says.

The exhibit also includes works by Peter Moran, Gilbert Gaul, Oscar E. Berninghaus and Frank Tenney Johnson. “It’s also our pleasure to show these works of artists not as well known as Remington and Russell,” Burke says.

For that, thank founder Sid W. Richardson. Born in Athens, Texas, in 1891, he made his fortune in the oil business and acquired ranches in Texas and Oklahoma. Richardson loved the West and in 1942 set out to build a world-class Western art collection. He hired Bertram Newhouse—renowned New York–based art dealer and gallery owner—to acquire works for the collection, which grew to include 23 paintings by Remington and 52 by Russell. In 1947 Richardson established a namesake foundation, which began distributing major grants after his death in 1959 and continues to support the museum, which draws some 50,000 annual visitors. Works by Remington and Russell are the year-round highlights. “People remain really interested in them,” Burke says.

Fort Worth is also home to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, which also houses a number of works by Remington and Russell. “We’re good neighbors,” Burke says, “and the museums offer an extended opportunity to see the breadth and depth of Remington and Russell.”

The Sid Richardson Museum is at 309 Main St. For more info call 817-332-6554. WW