The first object seen upon entering the exhibition The American West in Bronze, 1850–1925 is a buffalo, perhaps one of the most important symbols of the American West. This sculpture, Henry Merwin Shrady's Buffalo, stands in front of a blown-up chromolithograph of a herd of wild buffalo, and showcases the exhibition's unique point of view, blending the artists' and patrons' fondest memories and wildest dreams of what the vast, "untouched" frontier meant. Nostalgia and excitement abound in the exhibition, as brave pioneers conquer the West and search for the American Dream.
Charles M. Russell's Buffalo Hunt series perfectly evokes the excitement and danger of the West in a similar manner. In his paintings, Russell uses different tones of paint to deftly portray the dangers of a revolutionized traditional hunting technique known as "encirclement." Russell's obsession with the buffalo hunt eventually compelled him to move towards three-dimensional sculpture, and it is through the monochromatic bronze that you experience the scene for yourself. This monumental bronze sculpture stunned us with its size, structural complexity, and diversity of texture.
As the viewer circles the sculpture and sees the Native Americans on horses, which were imported from Europe, one can experience how the hunt occurred—with two Native Americans armed with bows and arrows circling closer and driving the buffalo herd into a stew. In Russell's work, the buffalo in front has already been shot, though the fateful blow through the shoulders has not yet been dealt. With this final stroke, the lance would eventually reach through the heart.