1 of 7 images

Vance Kirkland
Colorado Landscape (View from Red Rocks looking south toward Soda Lakes)



Dated 1943.7 (Number 7). Presented in a custom frame, outer dimensions measure 36 ¼ x 44 ¾ x 2 inches. Image size is 22 ½ x 31 inches. As an artist and educator, Vance Kirkland almost single-handedly brought modern art to Denver. At a time when conservative tastes ruled, he came to Colorado and worked in a manner that emphasized process more than subject matter. Rather than pleasing landscapes, he created paintings that expressed the dynamic forces of the universe, often with results that were strange and otherworldly. Standing on principle, he never wavered from his conviction that the arts were respected disciplines, and he constantly pushed for the inclusion of modern art in Denver’s public institutions. Deliberately working away from the major art centers, Kirkland’s varied art styles were determined by his own compass yet were nationally recognized. Growing up in Ohio, Kirkland began his art studies at the Cleveland School of Art, where he received a diploma in painting and a bachelor’s degree in art education. The former curator of the Denver Art Museum, Diane Vanderlip points to a failed watercolor class as an indicator of both his future stylistic development and his early self-confidence. When the teacher criticized Kirkland for colors that fought with each other, the young man listened to his own muse rather than pass the course. Upon graduation, he was offered a job at Princeton, but when the university discovered just how young he was, they withdrew their offer. He then accepted an offer at the University of Denver to establish their art department in 1929. While most schools shunted art off to the side, Kirkland developed the program as a combination of academics and art. He also got officials to accept nude figure drawing. However, a parting of the ways came when he and the Provost clashed over degree recognition. The subsequent establishment of his Kirkland School of Art became a cultural beacon in this Rocky Mountain capitol. From 1927 to 1944, he worked in a style he referred to as “Designed Realism,” in which natural forms were highly stylized in rhythmic shapes. Working totally in watercolor, he developed an individualized method of applying dots to a saturated color surface. By the end of the thirties, Kirkland’s paintings became larger and more energetic. Hiking in the mountains, the artist was inspired by the unusual shapes of high-altitude plants and trees stunted and bent by the fierce winds. Taking his painting gear, he had to add antifreeze to his paints in order to work in these demanding conditions. Departing from his ordinary perspective, Kirkland created compositions of open spaces and wild linear elements, which he increasingly liberated from any specific representation. In his fantastic imaginings, he had an affinity with Surrealism, although he had no interest in their Freudian pursuits. Kirkland received national attention with inclusion in exhibitions, such as “Abstract and Surrealist American Art” at the Art Institute of Chicago and “Reality and Fantasy” at the Walker Art Center. In 1946, Knoedler and Company in New York invited him to be one of their artists, which brought solo shows and group exhibitions with artists like Max Ernst. Beginning in the 1940s, he also became more active with the Denver Art Museum, serving in various honorary and formal positions. Both in his capacity as board member and curator, he relentlessly pressed for the recognition of contemporary art and artists. At the same time, his prestige grew when the University of Denver invited him back: this time as Director of the School of Art, Professor of Painting, and Chairman of the Department of Arts and Humanities. In 1941, he married Anne Fox Oliphant Olson, a librarian, and their home was a center for Denver’s cultural life with evening salons and musical performances. His first non-objective painting, Red Abstraction (1951) initiated his break with his past art. Looking back, Kirkland said, “There had to be a way of creating something and I became interested in abstraction.’ Deciding to forego watercolor, he experimented with paint and materials, particularly with inventive ways of mixing them. He had always been intrigued by the quality of resistance, and now he used the combination of oil and water to cause unexpected effects. The surface of his canvases became almost like breathing skins. Committed to his new direction, Kirkland didn’t flinch when Knoedler’s dropped him for abandoning his commercially successful style. Moving to greater heights, Kirkland began painting large canvases that suggested cosmic phenomena, some of which he called “nebula.” Although the fifties saw the birth of space exploration, the artist deliberately avoided any astronomical study, preferring instead to paint the mystery beyond his knowledge. When he saw pre-Hubble photographs that looked startlingly similar, he decided to stop. Towards the end of his career, he returned to his earlier practice of layering the surface with dots. The works that first appeared in 1963 were geometric abstractions that share some of the qualities of contemporary Op Art. These later paintings were painstakingly done. Always a tireless worker, he pursued his art even after hepatitis made painting more difficult and physically excruciating, devising a system that suspended him over his canvases. © Stan Cuba for David Cook Galleries Expedited and International Shipping is available; please contact us for an estimate.


  • Movement & Style
  • Condition
  • Dimensions

    H 36.25 in. x W 44.75 in. x D 2 in.

    H 92.08 cm x W 113.67 cm x D 5.08 cm

  • Gallery location
    Denver, CO
  • Reference number
  • Seller reference number
    DCG 22586

Shipping, Returns & Payment

  • Shipping

    Global Shipping Available

    View details
  • Return Policy

    This item can be returned within 7 days of delivery.

    View details
  • Online Payment Methods
    1stdibs accepts the following payment methods
  • Item Invoice
    Generate an invoice that you can customize and print.

About the Seller

Top Seller
1stdibs seller since 2013
Typical response time: 10 hrs
Located in Denver, CO
You may also contact the seller by phoneCall seller through 1stdibs
More From This Seller
Pair of Landscape Paintings
Zona Wheeler
Each is housed in a custom frame with all archival materials. Overall dimensions as displayed are 31 x 16.5 x 1 inches. Individual Dimensions: Above: 14 ½ x 16 ½ x 1 inches (fram...
Catamount Country (Colorado)
Charles Ragland Bunnell
Housed in a custom frame with all archival materials, outer dimensions measure 17 ½ x 20 x 1 ½ inches. Image size is 9 ¼ x 11 ½ inches. Charles Bunnell developed a love for art a...
Untitled (Five Million Years Ago)
Vance Kirkland
Dated: 1945.34 (painting number 34 from 1945). Presented in a custom frame with all archival materials, outer dimensions measure 30 ½ x 38 ½ x 1 ¼ inches. Image size is 22 ½ x 30 ½...
Untitled (Sunset, Along the Front Range, Colorado)
Charles Partridge Adams
Original Watercolor on paper. Housed in a custom frame with archival materials and Museum Glass (UV Protection/Anti-reflective). Framed dimensions measure 14 ½ x 17 ½ x ¾ inches; ima...
You May Also Like
Whimsical Illustration "Snow" Cartoon, 1938 Mt ...
William Steig (b.1907)
India Ink, Watercolor, Illustration Board
Lighthearted Illustration of Outdoor Pursuits This one being cross country Snow Shoes signed "W. Steig" Provenance: from Mrs. Joseph B. Ryan, Commissioned by Joe Ryan for the bar at...
Cutting Fish
Dorothy Rising
Paper, Watercolor
One of Seattle's most accomplished artist's, Dorothy Rising had a career that spanned over eight decades. She was born in Tacoma and attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and al...
Beach Picnic
Dorothy Rising
Paper, Watercolor
One of Seattle's most accomplished artist's, Dorothy Rising had a career that spanned over eight decades. She was born in Tacoma and attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and al...
Aborigene Rainbow Valley
peter tjutatja taylor
Peter Taylor Tjutjatja: born in 1944 (deceased) lived and worked in Alice Springs, Northern Territory. Born at Oodnadatta in South Australia, his career as a watercolorist starts fr...
Aborigene Monts Mc Donnell North Territtory
gloria PANNKA
Gloria Pannka: born in 1949, lives and works in Alice Springs, Northern Territory: Granddaughter of Albert Namatjira, the watercolor painting is sent to him by his father very young ...
Aborigene Near Ellery Creek Big Hole
Hubert Pareroultja: born in 1952, lives and works in the West MacDonnell Ranges. Pareroultja painted since his childhood thanks to the instruction of his father Reuben Pareroultja a...
Travel to Indochina
André Maire
Gouache, Watercolor
André Maire is a French painter. He was born September 28, 1898 in Paris and died in that city in 1984, at the age of 86. Émile Bernard became the mentor of the young painter. He e...
Trenches at Gaza.
James McBey.
Watercolor, Ink
Trenches at Gaza. 1917 and 1921 Watercolour. 14 x 22. Signed and annotated 'Gaza 1917 ', and 1921 lower left. Provenance: The Fine Art Society. Housed in an elegant French mat and ...

Why Shop on 1stdibs?

Learn More

Only Vetted, Professional Sellers

Buyer Protection Guaranteed

Fully Insured Global Deliveries