Wieghorst Museum exhibit shows rare Olaf Wieghorst artwork in moving tribute

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Three different presidents displayed Olaf Wieghorst artwork in the White House.

Olaf Wieghorst Museum and Western Heritage Center is unique in its own right, for celebrating the life and art of a prominent local artist known during his lifetime and since as the “Dean of Western Painters.” Over the next two months, the museum’s gallery will be even more distinctive, featuring an exhibit of rarely and never before publicly displayed original oils and sculptures by Olaf Wieghorst. 

Three different presidents displayed Olaf Wieghorst artwork in the White House.

Olaf Wieghorst Museum and Western Heritage Center is unique in its own right, for celebrating the life and art of a prominent local artist known during his lifetime and since as the “Dean of Western Painters.” Over the next two months, the museum’s gallery will be even more distinctive, featuring an exhibit of rarely and never before publicly displayed original oils and sculptures by Olaf Wieghorst. 

This exhibit, “Reflections of Olaf: A Retrospective” contains private collectors and other museum loaned Wieghorst artwork. Opening on Oct. 6, it will continue through Dec. 4, with periodic special events during the show’s run.

Earlene Hollmichel, executive director of the museum Foundation, explained the significance of this exhibit, which was a year in planning. She stated that Wieghorst did four of the paintings on display especially for his wife, Mae, as wedding anniversary gifts. These gifts, for the couple’s 34th, 39th, 41st and 44th anniversaries, until now, only seen by Wieghorst family members and close friends. 

Hollmichel further disclosed that Roy and Barbara Wieghorst, son and daughter-in-law of Olaf, provided several rarely displayed pieces of art for the show. The museum held a preview and opening reception on Oct. 3. Although medical problems prevented Roy and Barbara Wieghorst from attending the preview, Roy plans to honor his father and be part of the exhibit in coming days. Besides the art on loan from the Wieghorst family, other artwork for the exhibit came from the Desert Cabellos Museum in Wickenburg, AZ, the Reilly Family Trust, Croce family, C.T. Hunter Family, and Jim and Lila Daniels.

Supporters, dignitaries and honored guests spoke with affection and admiration about the man and his art. Former Congressman Duncan L. Hunter spoke about his long friendship with Wieghorst.

“Olaf Wieghorst was co-chairman of my annual barbecue, with Casey Tibbs,” Hunter said. “He was a wonderful friend, with tremendous character and tremendous artwork. One time, Olaf brought $10,000 of signed lithographs to the picnic and handed them out. He was a great example of Western hospitality. We had a great friendship, and I miss him. The paintings are the legacy he left behind.”

A surprise announcement during the reception came from Hollmichel. She informed the attendees and the museum foundations’ board of directors that Ross Provence decided to permanently place the bust he sculpted in memory of Olaf in the museum Foundation exhibit hall. A special event at the museum on Oct. 8, “Reminiscences of Olaf,” Provence will speak on Olaf’s life, how he came to the U.S. from Denmark, and his adventures before settling in El Cajon.

Which are Hollmichel’s favorites and recommendations for particular attention?

“One of my favorites that is here for this exhibit is ‘Partners,’ the colors and shading are outstanding, making you feel like you are there with the horse and rider,” she replied. “Others are ‘Trail West’ and ‘Scouting the Border,’ which both are outstanding samples of the detail and vivid shades of color Olaf was able to achieve. I have seen much of Olaf’s work and have a deep appreciation for his ability to bring something like a horse and a cowboy to such perfection. But I think my all time favorite, though not in this show, is ‘Spring Rain.’ It just makes you feel for the horse and cowboy in the environment.”

El Cajon Downtown Partners, and Pam and Stuart Bruder provided financial support for the exhibit. The “Reflections” exhibition will be open Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., and on Saturdays from 11 a.m. through 4 p.m., (museum’s hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.) Visit the Olaf Wieghorst Museum and Western Heritage Center at 131 Rea Avenue in downtown El Cajon, phoned at (619) 590-3431. More information about the museum and special events keyed around the “Reflections of Olaf” visit www.wieghorstmuseum.org. 

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