The Leanin’ Tree Museum Bids Farewell
After decades of educating and delighting the public, Ed Trumble’s vast Western art collection will be auctioned this January
December 2017 | January 2018
IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS, the endeavors by individuals that benefit society have intrinsic and lasting value. Such is the legacy of Ed Trumble, the man, the power and the vision behind the Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art, which closed for good this past August after more than 40 years of serving the broader community in Boulder, Colorado.
Trumble’s collection of hundreds of paintings and dozens of monumental bronzes — which graced the museum’s adjacent sculpture garden — will be sold January 19 and 20 by the Scottsdale Art Auction. Taking place in its namesake Arizona town, the auction is sure to highlight “the allure and accessibility of beautiful art of the American West,” a phrase Trumble used to describe the experience had by the several million visitors to the museum he created.
In a letter referring to his decision to bid adieu to his collection, Trumble recalled the reaction of a New Yorker to an artwork hanging in the museum which evoked tears and the statement, “This is the most beautiful painting I have ever seen.”
The Leanin’ Tree’s 8,200-square-foot building houses paintings and sculptures by some 100 artists, dating from the 1930s but focusing on the 1950s onward. It includes many of the most distinguished names in Western art.
Trumble would know. His decades of collecting allowed him to give pride of place to paintings by such wildlife art giants as the late Bob Kuhn and such esteemed painters of the American Southwest and its peoples as Gerard Curtis Delano. Trumble’s rule-of-thumb for collecting was guided by the best-of-the-best, an approach illuminated by such picks as Martin Grelle’s outsized Back from the River — presale estimates for which range from $125,000 to $175,000 — and Fritz Scholder’s Dartmouth Portrait #14, reckoned to fetch between $35,000 and $55,000.
Trumble’s choice of the Arizona auction house was likewise a reflection of his drive to reward merit. “We have partnered with the Scottsdale Art Auction because of our long friendship and their well-deserved reputation,” he said in his letter.
Auction partner Brad Richardson says the sale in January is in homage to Trumble and the diversity of his collection, with original paintings that also appear on greeting cards produced by a company run by the founder’s sons, Tom and Tim, in Boulder, Colorado.
Gerard Curtis Delano, "Dineah" | Oil | 30 x 36 inches | Est. $150,000 – $250,000
“His 60 years of collecting has clearly been a process that brought Ed a tremendous amount of joy,” says Richardson.
The breadth of the collection is igniting excitement in the art world, an energy made infectious by the Scottsdale auction partners. Unique to the sale are more than two dozen life-sized and monumental sculptures by such wildlife art talents as Ken Bunn, Gerald Balciar, George Carlson and Tim Shinabarger, and such high-profile figurative sculptors as John Coleman.
“It’s the work of a lifetime,” Richardson says of the 500-plus pieces slated to sell over two days. “We feel a tremendous sense of privilege and responsibility.”
Now in his 90s, Trumble said that in an emotionally fraught decision, he concluded the time had come to see his cherished collection “come full circle as it finds new homes with the next generation of families, collectors and museums.”
“It was never my expectation that my family would maintain the museum indefinitely,” he added. “They have the thriving Leanin’ Tree greeting card business to run, and their own lives to lead, their own dreams to fulfill.
“Western art has been my life’s passion and mission, and it has been an extraordinary journey. The gratitude I feel for those who have loved the art I have loved cannot be fully expressed.”
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