Victoria on November 19th, 2009

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DENVER – The Colorado History Museum has put together a wonderful exhibit, featuring artist Allen True.  In the early 1900’s, True painted murals as public art projects, all over the city.

He also painted murals in private homes and as public art in other states.

True’s works are right in front of us to this day, although many people never notice. They are Denver’s hidden murals.

You can see Allen True’s murals at Civic Center Park. Tucked into the stately columns and stonework of the Greek Theater, are two murals painted in 1919.  They reflect the times;  prospectors, trappers and miners.

Alisa Zahller, who put together the exhibit at the Colorado History Museum, says True painted the west as he knew it, as he had seen it, and as he had experienced it.

Zahller found dozens of True paintings for the exhibit. Before he did big murals, he painted the scenes as mural studies – rough drafts if you will.  They now hang on the museum’s walls and are beautiful in their own right.  The studies feature not only existing murals, but also works that have been destroyed.  For instance, True once painted murals for the old Continental Oil Company building on Glenarm.  It was torn down in 1976, and only the mural studies remain.

Possibly the most famous True murals decorate the rotunda of the Colorado state capitol. They tell the story of water in Colorado. When the state ran out of money and couldn’t pay True the $12,000 to finish the project, philanthropist Claude Boettcher stepped up and the they were completed in 1940.

Some of True’s most spectacular murals are in the lobby of the now empty Colorado National Bank building at 17th and Champa. They show his vision of Native American life, from young to old to life along the way.

Zahller says True was one of the most prolific artists in the country, but many people have never heard of him. She says it is because of his personality.

“He was great at selling himself and getting commissions, but he wasn’t so great at saying look at me as the artist,” she said.

Now, years after his death, we get a chance to look at True as the artist. This exhibit pays tribute to his talent and legacy which is long overdue.

The “Allen True” exhibit runs at the Colorado History Museum through next spring. Parts of it are also featured at the Denver Art Museum and Denver Public Library main branch.

“Colorado Heritage Magazine” has listed a number of places where you can see Allen True murals.

Among them: Denver Public Library central branch, Civic Center Park, Qwest building downtown, Colorado State Capitol, South High School, Brown Palace, Phipps Tennis House, Denver Unniversity, Denver City and County Building, Wyoming State Capitol, Montana National Bank, Colorado Springs Nursery School, Missouri State Capitol and the Colorado National Bank building in Denver (now closed).

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