Western Museum Opens Summer Exhibition – Survival of the Fittest!

Western Museum


Western Museum Exhibition and Programs Bring the Wild to Life Through Art, Movies and More




This museum, The Briscoe Western Art Museum, unleashes it’s summer exhibition, kicking off today, June 14th with Survival of the Fittest: Envisioning Wildlife and Wilderness with the Big Four. Guests can gear up for an active summer exploring wildlife and wildnerness through the musuem’s summer film series, drawing labs, watercolor workshops, National Day of the Cowboy celebration and more!



Stampede into the Briscoe Western Art Museum for a wild summer of survival, where you can roar, growl, howl and rumble through the natural habitats of our world’s most majestic animals, all brought to life by the master artists who revolutionized our perspective of and connection with Earth’s creatures. From hands-on workshops and book signings, film screenings and conversations about wildlife and conservation to the museum’s beloved National Day of the Cowboy celebration, the Briscoe is the place to be to survive this summer.


Western Museum


Opening June 14, venture where nature’s beauty and the resilience take center stage during the Briscoe’s summer exhibition, Survival of the Fittest: Envisioning Wildlife and Wilderness with the Big Four, Masterworks from the Rijksmuseum Twenthe and the National Museum of Wildlife Art. This stunning exhibition captivates with the awe-inspiring beauty of nature and invites visitors to reflect on their own relationship with the natural world. The exhibition is included with museum admission.

Survival of the Fittest:  June 14 – Sept. 8

The exhibition’s title references Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, which had a revolutionary impact on how people from Western cultures envisioned our relationship with the other animals on Earth. In the post-Darwin era, a group of classically trained painters now known as the “Big Four” emerged and helped establish a vision of wildlife and nature that remains with us today. German Richard Friese (1854–1918) is the Big Four’s elder, followed chronologically by Swede Bruno Liljefors (1860–1939), German Wilhelm Kuhnert (1865–1926), and German-American Carl Rungius (1869–1959).

The Rijksmuseum Twenthe in Enschede, Netherlands, and the National Museum of Wildlife Art are the only two museums in the world to hold masterpieces by each member of the group. Survival of the Fittest brings together the best paintings from these two esteemed institutions for the first time. Along with the 45 works featured in the exhibition, the Briscoe will feature eight works by Robert “Bob” Frederick Kuhn (1920-2007), on loan exclusively to the Briscoe to showcase how Kuhn – one of the most prolific American wildlife artists – was greatly influenced by the Big Four. Separately, the Briscoe’s permanent collection includes “Rainbow Rams” by Carl Rungius, giving everyone 54 wildlife works to explore.


Western Museum


Step into the Studio: Animals on Display and Drawing Lab

To provide more wildlife perspective, the exhibition will include taxidermy mounts of Cape buffalo, Dall sheep, javelina, bison, Scimitar oryx, turkey, elk and pheasant on loan from the Greg Kowalski Family & Salt Creek Ranch. The animals are on display in the exhibition and everyone can enjoy a special hands-on area that features animal skins, fur and tracks to understand more about wildlife. A special mini-drawing lab offers step-by-step instructions to draw animals and landscapes, giving everyone the opportunity to try their hand at joining the Big Four in documenting the nature around them.



  • Survival of the Fittest: A Tour on the Wild Side


Western Museum


Exhibition tour and book signing with curator Adam Duncan Harris 

Friday, June 14, 1 – 2 p.m., included with museum admission

Enjoy a tour of the exhibition with curator Adam Duncan Harris as he dives into the lasting impact of the Big Four and places their paintings in an international context – and how these paintings invite visitors to reflect on their relationship with the natural world. Harris will also sign copies of his book, “Survival of the Fittest: Envisioning Wildlife and Wilderness with the Big Four, Masterworks from the Rijksmuseum Twenthe and the National Museum of Wildlife Art,” available in the Briscoe’s Hendler Family Museum Store.

  • Film Screening, Conversation and Tour:  The Role of Artists in Wilderness Conservation – “There is a Place on Earth”


Western Museum


Curator Adam Duncan Harris and filmmaker Ellen van den Honert

Saturday, June 15, 1:30 p.m., included with museum admission

Dive into the role artists play in wilderness conservation through “There is a Place on Earth”, Dutch filmmaker Ellen van den Honert’s  beautiful and poetic journey around the world, meeting artists and conservationists who share extraordinarily creative work and a commitment to the environment. Filmed in Hawaii, India, Portugal, South-Africa, Canada, the Netherlands, France and the US, the film features the “Big Four” and delves into how the artists helped revolutionize Western perspectives on our connection with Earth’s creatures. Following the screening, Harris and van den Honert will answer audience questions, then lead a tour of the exhibition.

  • Scratchboard Art Workshop


Western Museum


A hands-on session for all skill levels with San Antonio artist Sally Maxwell

Thursday, June 20, 5:30 – 8 p.m., $25 for  members, $45 for nonmembers

Join San Antonio-based, internationally recognized artist Sally Maxwell to leave your mark in art. Scratchboard art, also known as scratch art, is a form of direct engraving where the artist scratches off dark ink to reveal a white or colored layer beneath. Following a presentation to introduce everyone to the scratchboard process and the different kinds of boards and techniques used, guests will work on a 5” x 7” personalized square to complete and take home. The workshop is for all skill levels and all supplies are included. Pre-registration is required.

Selected by the International Society of Scratchboard Artists to be designated as one of only 12 in the world with the status Master Scratchboard Artist, Maxwell is a Signature member in the Society of Animal Artists, a Silver Signature member of Artists Changing Tomorrow, and a Master Signature member of American Women Artists. Maxwell will have pieces of her work on display during the workshop, as well as copies of her book for purchase.

Survive, Thrive and Enjoy Summer at the Briscoe

Following the Survival of the Fittest opening events, the Briscoe will be the place to be throughout the summer. Other activities on tap include:

Make this Summer One for the Books:  Literary Cinema

The Briscoe’s Summer Movie Series explores western movies based on popular novels on the third Sunday of June, July and August. Each screening includes a novel twist: the opportunity to win a visit to West Texas, a copy of the book featured in the movie and the chance to help fuel young readers by donating books. A short presentation begins at 1 p.m., followed immediately by the screening. Each movie is included in general museum admission, with complimentary beer courtesy of Ranger Creek Brewery, wine and movie snacks. Pre-registration with an online museum admission ticket purchase is encouraged to save your seat. Museum members may enjoy the series for free as part of their Briscoe membership.

    • Briscoe Summer Film Series:  Giant (1956)

Sunday, June 16, 1 – 4 p.m., included with museum admission

Spend a Giant Father’s Day at the Briscoe with dad enjoying this classic American epic brought to life with Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean. All attendees will be entered to win a trip to stay at the Hotel Paisano in Marfa, Texas, where Hudson, Taylor and Dean stayed during filming, and tickets to the Museum of the Big Bend in Alpine, Texas. Tickets may be purchased online.

    • Briscoe Summer Film Series: News of the World (2020)

Sunday, July 21, 1 – 4 p.m., included with museum admission

Based on the 2016 novel by Paulette Jiles, Tom Hanks portrays an aging Civil War veteran who must return a young girl who was taken in by the Kiowa – and raised as one of them – to her last remaining family. Everyone who attends the screening will receive a free copy of the book. Tickets may be purchased online.

    • Briscoe Summer Film Series:  Killers of the Flower Moon (2023)

Sunday, Aug. 18, 1 – 4 p.m., included with museum admission

Directed by Martin Scorsese and based on the non-fiction book by David Grann, this Oscar-nominated film shares the story of a series of murders of members of the Osage after oil was discovered on tribal and. The movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Lilly Gladstone. Come to the movie with three books to donate to the San Antonio Independent School District Foundation’s Book Buddies program and receive a free copy of “Killers of the Flower Moon”, filling your bookshelf while sparking a love of reading for SAISD children in grades K-8. Tickets may be purchased online to guarantee your seat.

Survival of the Fittest: Envisioning Wildlife and Wilderness with the Big Four, Masterworks from the Rijksmuseum Twenthe and the National Museum of Wildlife Art is curated by Adam Duncan Harris, Grainger/Kerr Director of the Carl Rungius Catalogue Raisonné and organized by the National Museum of Wildlife Art. The exhibition is sponsored in part by The City of San Antonio, Jan McCaleb Elliott, Jessica Elliott Middleton and The Texas Commission on the Arts.

Cowgirl Up! Free Cowboy Fun:  National Day of the Cowboy (and Girl!) Celebration

Tippin’ its hat and celebrating the legacy of the cowboy, cowgirl and vaquero, the Briscoe presents its annual National Day of the Cowboy celebration on Saturday, July 27, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the museum. The free community event, which includes free admission to the museum and its exhibitions, features indoor and outdoor activities across the museum’s River Walk campus for cowpokes of all ages to enjoy and explore the west. This year’s celebration spotlights cowgirls and their role in roping, riding and taming the West to inspire young cowgirls – and cowboys – to follow their western dreams. Saddle up with your family and head west for a free day of fun you won’t forget.


The West Starts Here at the Briscoe

Showcasing the purely American art form of Western art, the Briscoe Western Art Museum celebrates the past, present and future of the storied genre. The museum is open Thursday through Monday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and closed to the public on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Admission is free for children 12 and under and for active duty military members, while retired military receive discounted admission. The museum proudly participates in Museums For All, Blue Star Museums and Bank of America Museums on Us. Located on the south end of the River Walk near the Arneson River Theatre and La Villita, convenient parking is available at the Riverbend Garage directly adjacent to the museum or one of many downtown surface lots. Museum hours, parking and admission details are available online.

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