The Prix de West in Oklahoma City celebrated cowboys and cowgirls.

All Images Courtesy the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

In the years since it began in 1955 the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum has been foremost in promoting the role of the cowboy in American history and culture. So it certainly makes sense that one of its largest annual events, the Prix de West, would have an abundance of images of cowboys…and cowgirls. This annual sale of contemporary Western art, on June 9-10, 2023, had 35 pieces of art following that theme.

Two striking portraits in the auction were Thomas Blackshear’s Red, a red-haired cowboy and Toby, a Black cowboy. Each stares confidently, almost sternly, at the viewer. In contrast with those portraits is Carrie Ballantyne’s Sweet Reticence, which depicts a young cowgirl, also confident but with a certain reserve, perhaps even uncertainty, about her future in the saddle. That future is portrayed in Glenn Dean’s impressionistic Daughter of the Desert. Dean’s cowgirl is almost featureless in the shadow of her hat, cast by the desert sun. That relentless sun dominates the landscape, with shadow offering the only respite, in Shadow Rider, one of his other paintings in the show.


Kyle Polzin creates still lifes, depicting the firearms, clothing, decorative items, equipment and other artifacts of the West of the past. Inspired by cowboy life and culture, his two paintings, The Work’s All Done (above) and Ballad of a Cowboy (below), sold for $34,000 and $48,000.


Harsh weather, either hot or cold, is not the only challenge faced by riders on the open range. In Scrambled Eggs, by Bruce R. Greene, a cowboy struggles to control his horse, spooked by birds flushed from their nest. Bill Nebeker’s The Wreck is On shows a confrontation between a cowboy, his horse, and a wayward calf. The future is uncertain in each sculpture, with serious injury possible for both the cowboy and his horse.

In contrast with the two action-filled sculptures, Kyle Polzin’s still life Ballad of a Cowboy portrays items from the calmer moments in a cowboy’s life. That calm is emphasized by a photograph of both a cowboy and his horse in repose. His other still life at the show, The Work’s All Done, suggests that just out of sight someone is relaxing after a hard day’s work. Ballantyne’s young cowgirl has a touch of uncertainty, perhaps because even today life on the range can be hard. But, as Polzin shows, it is rewarded by times of relaxation and a realization of a job well done.

This sampling of pieces from this year’s Prix de West demonstrates the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum’s tradition of an ongoing dedication to promoting those who ride, and have ridden, the ranges of the West.


Thomas Blackshear’s portraits of two cowboys, Red (above) and Toby (below), were purchased for $25,000 and $19,000. Blackshear has illustrated over 25 postage stamps, magazine covers and musical recordings, and even greeting cards. His paintings of the American West have become increasingly popular in recent years.



November 18, 2023

Inaugural Firearms & Sportsmans Auction

Richmond Auctions (Greenville, SC) • 864-991-5949

December 2, 2023

Texas Art Signature Auction

Heritage Auctions (Dallas, TX) • 307-587-5002 

December 5, 2023

Native American Art

Bonhams (Los Angeles, CA) • 760-567-1744


Glenn Dean’s impressionistic Daughter of the Desert (above) sold for $16,000. Like his Shadow Rider (below), which sold for $13,000, it relies on an interplay of light and shadow. Following the lead of Maynard Dixon and Edgar Payne, Dean usually places his cowgirl and cowboy subjects in vast Western landscapes.


Sweet Reticence by Carrie Ballantyne, sold for $10,500 at the Prix de West. Ballantyne is best known for her realistic portraits of contemporary cowgirls, adeptly capturing their emotions.


Bruce R. Greene, a sculptor and painter, has done his share of riding and herding cattle. His sculpture Scrambled Eggs went for $16,500 at the Prix de West show and sale.


Bill Nebeker has been a member of Cowboy Artists of America since 1978 and has created well over 100 bronze sculptures. The Wreck is On, which sold for $6,000, shows the moment when a calf runs under a cowboy’s horse, initiating a meeting from which no good can come.

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