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New Discoveries on the Shrine of the Sun

By Samantha Knoll, Assistant Curator- Penrose Heritage Museum

The recent donation of a historical document to El Pomar Foundation has allowed curatorial staff to discover new details about the painters and sculptors who worked on the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun. Objects and discoveries like these are so valuable because we are always excited to fill in any missing pieces of our archive to establish a more complete picture of the Penroses and the historic properties of the Foundation.

We already knew that the murals decorating the interior walls of the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun were painted by Santa Fe artist Randall Davey in 1937, and according to correspondence stored in our archives, Spencer Penrose commissioned a pamphlet to promote these murals. The pamphlet featured photos of the murals taken by prominent local photographer Laura Gilpin with descriptions of the artwork written by Davey himself. For many years, we did not have access to the actual pamphlet in our archives, but that would change thanks to the connections our staff made with other historical institutions

El Pomar has other Randall Davey artworks in the collection, so we have communicated with other institutions about his life and his works to expand our knowledge. It was through a relationship with one of these institutions that we were able to acquire a copy of this historic pamphlet. Thanks to the establishment of professional relationships and incredible generosity, this sought-after pamphlet was donated by Kim Straus and Randall Davey Audubon Center & Sanctuary in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

These are some of the photos Laura Gilpin took of the murals in 1937. They look even more spectacular in color, so be sure to visit Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun!

While the pamphlet has ample information about the murals, which has contributed greatly to our knowledge of these important works, we made a secondary discovery upon obtaining it. The curatorial staff was delighted to see a photograph of Jo Davidson carving the Will Rogers bust that now sits outside of the Shrine. We had seen mention of this photo in the archival correspondence, but we had been unable to find it until now. This pamphlet is now part of our collection and a resource for future research. Jo Davidson also created the statue of Will Rogers that resides in the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C. and at Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, OK.

Visit Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun to learn more about Randall Davey and Jo Davidson! Call ahead for current operating hours and to plan your visit, (719)578-5367.

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