Tough by Nature: Portraits of cowgirls and ranch women of the American West

Exhibition of 65 works added to the National Cowgirl Museum permanent collection

FORT WORTH, TEXAS – The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame is pleased to announce the acquisition of Tough by Nature: Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West by artist Lynda Lanker. The exhibit was a donation from Lynda Lanker. The gift encompasses 65 of Lanker’s drawings, paintings, works on paper and prints, which document a vanishing way of life that affirmed the role of women, many of them Hall of Fame Honorees, in the economy and ecology of the American West. It also includes primary source material – works of art, a lithograph stone, plates and tools, studies material created while working on the collection and archival materials such as interviews, biographies and photographs.

Portrait of Jenna Johnson, 2006, Acrylic, by Lynda Lanker.

To celebrate the exhibition becoming a part of the Museum’s permanent collection, it will be on exhibit in the Anne W. Marion Gallery Feb. 13 through summer 2021. Included will be objects from the Museum’s permanent collection from some of the women represented. A printable educational activity guide will be available on our website under the “exhibition” tab, to bring to the exhibition. We were fortunate to host this exhibition in 2013, and then to have it gifted to us seven years later is humbling,” said Dr. Diana Vela, associate executive director. “It is a fitting gift to the Museum as all of the women depicted in the exhibition personify our mission.” For 19 years, Lanker traveled 13 western states sketching, painting, interviewing and photographing iconic women of the West. She has persisted in her commitment to preserve the spirit, heritage and stories of ranch women and cowgirls before even more of their ranches and homes are overtaken by urban and corporate development. Her subtle, thoughtful portraits bring these ranch women to life in the contexts they have chosen. She used a variety of media – pencil, charcoal, oil, egg tempura, lithography and engraving – to capture the spirit of these women and their stories. “If you’ve lived in ranch country much, you can tell a ranch woman by the wrinkles,” Lynda Lanker said in her book Tough by Nature: Portraits of Cowgirls and Ranch Women of the American West. “These wrinkles represent a choice, born of devotion to the harsh, seldom responsive land.”

This exhibition presents selected portraits and stories of more than 50 women, including seven Cowgirl Hall of Fame Honorees, who gain their sustenance and livelihood from the land. The seven Honorees featured are Linda Mitchell Davis, Ruby Gobble, Jonnie Jonckowski, Gretchen Sammis, Georgie Sicking, Mollie Taylor Stevenson and Jan Youren.

Accompanying the exhibition is the 132-page coffee table book, which tells the stories of these remarkable women in their own words. The book will be available in The Shop at The Cowgirl. The catalogue includes a forward by Larry McMurtry, an introduction by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and an afterword by Maya Angelou. 




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