Historical Museum exhibit pays homage to iconic Western artist
Two days after his death in 1945, Edward Borein, who was born in 1872, was eulogized in the Santa Barbara News-Press as the last artist of the longhorn era.
“We have known for a long time — and now we’re beginning to believe — that history is not confined to dates, wars and edicts. We have known, and we are beginning to believe, that the most important history is not written words but rather in wordless records the phrases of which never become obsolete and the languages of which never become dead,” the News-Press reported.
“A ‘keeper’ of such records was Ed Borein, ‘painter and etcher of the old West,’ first-hand student of humanity, cowhand and philosopher . . . With etching tool and brush, with acid and paint, Ed Borein ‘wrote’ the history of America’s West, of a way of living and — all important — of a way of thinking, that will be part of America’s strength long after the details of the West are forgotten. He ‘wrote’ history in a way that will be read and reread unnumbered times for generations to come.”
While Marlene R. Miller has no quarrel with the well-deserved words of praise, she feels that people don’t really know about Ed Borein as a person and what his status was in the community.
“People just know about his artwork. They don’t know who he really was,” said Mrs. Miller, an acknowledged authority on Mr. Borein’s work.
This inspired her to become the guest curator for “Borein and His Circle of Friends,” a special exhibition on view through Jan. 22 at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum.
In 2017, she created a permanent tribute to the Santa Barbara artist with the museum’s Edward Borein Gallery.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the museum is hosting several presentations on Mr. Borein’s life and artistry.
In a free talk via Zoom at 5 tonight, Michael R. Grauer will discuss “Edward Borein: A Response to His Art.” Mr. Grauer is the McCasland Chair of Cowboy Culture and curator of Cowboy Collections at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Reservations are required at www.sbhistorical.org/boreinfriends.
“After settling in Santa Barbara with his wife Lucile in 1921, he became active in the community. He helped organize the city’s first Fiesta parade and was a founding member of the elite Los Rancheros Visitadores. He helped found the Santa Barbara School of Arts and taught there. He was a member of the American Artists Professional League and the PrintMakers Society of California. In 1971, Ed Borein was posthumously elected to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, the first native California so honored,” said Mrs. Miller during a phone interview from her Santa Barbara home which she shares with her husband, Warren Miller.
“Ed and Thomas Storke were great friends. Ed had his studio in El Paseo, across the street from the News-Press, which was owned by Mr. Storke. They got together frequently. One of the paintings in the exhibit is a portrait of Mr. Storke that was done in 1944.”
In addition to curating the exhibit, Mrs. Miller also raised funds for the new book “Edward Borein: Etched by the West” by B. Byron Price, for the exhibit and for the 69-page catalog.
A former trustee and president of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, Mrs. Miller, who was born in southern Austria, immigrated to Toronto in 1953 and moved to Santa Barbara in 1961, where she began a career in banking.
In 1980, she opened the Arlington Gallery, dealing in 19th- and 20th-century American and European art, specializing in the work of Carl Oscar Borg and Mr. Borein. From 1995 until her retirement, she was a private dealer.
“I went to UCSB to learn about artists and developed a taste for local artists. Mr. Borg taught at the Santa Barbara School of Art and was known for his dramatic paintings of the Grand Canyon and other areas of the Southwest,” Mrs. Miller told the News-Press.
Mr. Borg is among the “Circle of Friends” artists in the exhibition. Others are Colin Campbell Cooper, Joe De Yong, Maynard Dixon, Frank Morley Fletcher, Clyde Forsyth, John Gamble, Alexander Harmer, Childe Hassam, Albert Herter, Frank Tenney Johnson, Fernand Lungren, Clarence Mattei, Thomas Moran, William Louis Otte, DeWitt Parshall, Douglass Parshall, Alexis Podchernikoff, Charles M. Russell and James Swinnerton.
“Edward Borein: Etched by the West,” a talk and book signing by B. Byron Price, takes place at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 20 in the museum courtyard. Mr. Price is the former director of the Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West at the University of Oklahoma. Tickets are $15 for museum members and $20 for guests. Reservations are required.
Mr. Price’s book, published by the museum, describes Mr. Borein’s path from itinerant vaquero to successful illustrator to revered recorder and interpreter of the vanishing west. The 336-page work includes more than 400 images, many never published.
“The hardback book is $65 and available for presale at www.sbhistorical.org/borein. A special edition limited to 100 copies is available for presale at $300. Each copy includes an archival quality reproduction of a 1930 photograph of the artist, inscribed and remarqued by him,” said Mrs. Miller.
Jeremy Tessmer will present “Edward Borein’s Artist Friends in Santa Barbara” at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 10 in the museum courtyard. He is an art historian and gallery director at Sullivan Goss: An American Gallery and curator of 19th- and 20th-century American Art.
Tickets are $15 for museum members and $20 for guests. Reservations are required.
When Mrs. Miller and her husband downsized from their home in Hope Ranch, they donated “12 or more” Borein works of art to the historical museum and now own “eight or nine” etchings.
“Two of them — ‘Five Vaqueros on Parade,’ an etching of vaqueros on their horses, and ‘Drink Time,’ an etching of mules drinking which Ed did for his wife. He did the mules because Lucile complained that he always had horses in his artwork,” said Mrs. Miller.