Art of the American West

Donald “Don” Muth



Don Muth is a painter of Western Americana, capturing an era nearly lost in the technological age. His pieces have decorated the walls of the High Plains Heritage Art and Culture Museum in Black Hills, S.D., the Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane, the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls and the Southwest Art Museum in Los Angeles.

The oil paintings reflect Muth’s heritage and life experiences, which stretch from the Dakota Badlands to the Mexican border. He comes from a family of cattle ranchers and homesteaders. His father even became involved with a gang of cattle rustlers. Muth’s paintings seize the past and leave an observer with a bit of history.

The pieces are as authentic as it gets, re-created with the help of dusty photographs and many years of interacting with the Navajo people as a government teacher. Muth and his family lived, worked and taught on a reservation where he “attended their weddings and ceremonials, buried their dead and sat with them around their Hogan fires.”

There, he was called Hosteen Nez (Mr. Tall), and was welcomed as a trail brother, and it’s been a long trail indeed, filled with many art schools, exhibits, awards and years of experience. Even a card company in the Southwest has rights to some of his work to use on their greeting cards.

Muth attended the Art Institute of Chicago, the Jepson Art School of Drawing in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Academy of Art and the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. He was a medical illustrator for four years for a West Coast school of medicine. He owned and operated a successful commercial art studio for 26 years, doing book and magazine illustrations, and designing and publishing books. He served five years as art director for a large firm in Oregon, and he taught drawing, painting and design on the college level for six years.

About six months ago, Muth, 86, and Vesta, his wife of 64 years, moved into Guardian Angel Homes, an assisted-living facility in Liberty Lake. His talent was immediately recognized and a small painting area was set up for him in his room.

His son, Barry, has much of his father’s collection in his Liberty Lake home. “Most artists have one particular style,” he said, “my dad has a large range.” Realism, impressionism and accidentalism (a term that Muth made up) are included in his range. All are equally breathtaking and evoke an array of emotions.

While Muth’s specialty is the Western American genre, he also paints nostalgia, flower gardens, lily ponds, forest waterfalls and portraits.

A portrait Muth recently completed is what convinced Joan Estudillo, administrator at Guardian Angel, to have a show of Muth’s work. It is a portrait of Harry H. Hoisington, a fellow resident and friend of Muth’s. Hoisington flew C-46 cargo planes during World War II.