Allen Tupper True: An American Artist, by Jere True and Victoria Tupper Kirby and published by Canyon Leap, San Francisco, CA, in association with the Museum of the Rockies, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, in 2009, is the first definitive biography of Allen Tupper True. The book traces the artist’s life from his earliest beginnings in Colorado. The book relies on letters, diaries, and contemporary news accounts as well as family history to describe True’s artistic evolution from illustrator to easel painter to muralist of the first order. This biography is lavishly illustrated with 121 color plates and 81 black-and-white images. Allen Tupper True: An American Artist includes images of most of True’s murals (both extant and destroyed), a selection of his major easel paintings, as well as some of his sketches and cartoons and Indian-inspired designs, and photographs of True working and his friends, family, homes and studios.

Written by True’s daughter Jere True and his granddaughter Victoria Tupper Kirby, the book has the charm of a personal memoir that is greatly enhanced by its scholarly underpinnings. The story of Allen Tupper True’s life and work is truly an American story that deserves to take its place in the panoply of American art history.

True’s vision of the Western venture and peoples he so admired and revered is vividly brought to life in this biography. He painted a way of life that streaked across the American land and psyche like a shooting star: bright, brief, and unique. As long as True’s work exists, it won’t be forgotten.

Allen Tupper True’s life was distinctly American. With roots deep in New England’s early settlement, he grew up in near-frontier conditions. His art work also is clearly American and decidedly Western in inspiration. He was an authority on Western cowboy gear, life, and costume, as well as a serious student and authority on Native American life, culture, and design. He had a deep admiration for these peoples and a keen interest in all the events and participants in the settlement of the West, including pioneers traveling across the plains, explorers seeking a practical way to the Pacific, trappers, practitioners of rough law, and miners.

Through his own experience, he knew many of these elements; what he didn’t experience he studied, in person or in museums. It may indeed be said that any costume, piece of equipment, or artifact shown in his paintings is authentic.

He studied extensively in this country, principally with the great illustrator Howard Pyle, and in Europe, serving an apprenticeship under the Welsh muralist, Frank Brangwyn. He became a master of his craft and achieved a prominence that led to significant mural contracts. In his maturity, his murals graced three U.S. state capitols (Colorado, Wyoming and Missouri), as well as numerous other public and private buildings throughout the West.

“No artist, east or west, was more sincerely devoted to or genuinely effective at exploring the pictorial dimensions of Western subjects than the Colorado painter Allen Tupper True,” asserts distinguished art historian and curator Peter H. Hassrick in the foreword of this volume. “ . . . His mural and decorative embellishments for monumental architectural projects throughout the West affirm his role as an artist of profound importance and extraordinary breadth of vision.”

Quotes from Pre-Publication Reviews

“Allen Tupper True’s paintings, murals, and illustrations constitute an impressive Colorado contribution to the nation’s art. The works and their maker are here recalled by those who knew him best, in a distinctive appreciation, blending art and regional history with family letters and lore.”

Dr. Charles Eldredge, Hall Distinguished Professor of American Art and Culture, Kress Foundation Department of Art History, Museum of Art, University of Kansas

“The biography of artist Allen Tupper True shares valuable lessons on the growth, training, and struggles of a twentieth-century American illustrator and muralist. But True was not merely an artist, illustrator, muralist. Allen Tupper True extended the concept of the artistic decoration of public buildings to create breathtaking ornamentation for a variety of civic structures. At Boulder Dam, True used the coloration and motifs from Southwestern Indian tribal sources to create a unified design concept for an industrial building: from the terrazzo panels’ Indian motifs surrounding floor drains to the appropriate color harmonies of the structure’s interior spaces.”

Joyce K. Schiller, Curator, American and Illustration Art, Delaware Art Museum

“This thoroughly documented biography of Allen Tupper True is a treasure trove of information about one of Colorado’s most important painters. Especially valuable are the large number of color illustrations, particularly the murals for which True was noted. Relying on family letters, diaries, and other primary sources, his story has been told by two very accomplished writers, who also happen to be his daughter and granddaughter.”

Suzan Campbell, Curator of Western Art, Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians & Western Art

“The interest in artists identified with certain states has increased dramatically over the past twenty years. Studies of Regionalism (and regionalism) have broadened our perspective and deepened our appreciation for ‘home-grown’ talents, particularly in the Southwest, with especial attention focused on New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado. With this monograph on Allen Tupper True, we gain a far greater and broader understanding of this fine artist’s seat in Colorado’s artistic pantheon, and it also expands our comprehension of True’s seminal place in the history of art of the American West.”

Michael R. Grauer, Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs, Curator of Art, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum

Allen Tupper True: An American Artist recalls, in amazing detail, True’s own creative awakening and his crucial role in creating and recording the region’s rich history. True’s inclusive vision brought overdue dignity to the region’s earliest inhabitants. His groundbreaking murals of Western vistas made the region a more beautiful place and served as giant documentaries about a disappearing way of life. This book should go a long way toward introducing True to the wider audience he deserves.”

Ray Rinaldi, Arts Editor, Denver Post

in association with Museum of the Rockies, Montana State University

Allen Tupper True: An American Artist
By Jere True and Victoria Tupper Kirby
512 pages, 121 color plates, 81 black & white photos
Publication month: February 2009
ISBN:   978-0-9817238-0-8 and 0-9817238-0-2 (casebound)
ISBN:   978-0-9817238-1-5 and 0-9817238-1-0 (paperbound)
SAN: 856-3691
Library of Congress Control Number: 2008930023
Price: $25 paperbound
Published by: Canyon Leap and the Museum of the Rockies, Montana State University

Casebound copies are no longer available on this site. Please contact your bookstore or the University of Washington Press: to a purchase casebound (hardcover) copy or buy it on If you live outside the United States, please do not purchase this book via Paypal, as it is unable to calculate the postage – which is expensive. I suggest you search an online seller in your country. For example, sells copies.

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