National Museum of Wildlife Art to exhibit While They’re Sleeping, A Story of Bears

JACKSON, Wyo. — Opening on October 23, 2021, While They’re Sleeping: A Story of Bears offers compelling visions of North American grizzly (Ursus arches horribilis), black (Ursus americanus), and polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from the National Museum of Wildlife Art’s permanent collection. The exhibition will be on view through May 15, 2022.

Today from 11:30am – 12pm, join the Museum for a special sneak peek of the exhibition with guest speaker – wildlife photographer and conservationist-Thomas D. Mangelsen. This is an exciting opportunity to preview a new exhibit prior to its public opening. This event is free to Museum members and included in the cost of general admission.

Carl Rungius (United States, b. Germany, 1869 – 1959). Old Man of the Mountains, 1930. Oil on canvas. 34 x 39 inches. JKM Collection®. National Museum of Wildlife Art, M1987.171

A special section of While They’re Sleeping pays tribute to Grand Teton Nation Park’s beloved resident Grizzly 399 through stunning photographs by Mangelsen. His images reveal intimate scenes from her life in the wild, including her current litter of four captivating cubs.

In this exhibition bears stride across windy mountains and freezing tundra, battle with bison, journey with wolves, and appear as dreamy apparitions. The moods and messages of the artwork on display shifts from 1846 to 2019 demonstrating how human values and beliefs have defined and redefined bears over the past two centuries – whether as hunting trophies, scientific specimens, devoted mothers, or supernatural beings.


Robert McCauley (United States, b. 1946). The Only West Left is the One in Your Head, 2014. Oil on canvas on panel. 24 x 36 inches. JKM Collection®, National Museum of Wildlife Art, W2014.037.004. © Robert McCauley.

Early works by artist-sportsmen document impressive bears in their prime to celebrate North America’s abundance of wildlife and advance early scientific knowledge. Other European-American artists of the past used bears to satirize human behavior or as emblematic of a vast wilderness. Today, a diverse group of artists create works that express a fluidity between the human and animal worlds, with bears acting as messengers of personal emotions and experiences, pressing environmental issues, and cultural narratives.

While They’re Sleeping is also a story of bears as told by prominent bear biologists who have spent their lives with these animals and offer fascinating perspectives about the artwork on display. As you view this exhibition, ponder the question considered by artists and scientists alike: Why do bears hold the human imagination so tightly?

Of note: This exhibit takes place during the winter months while the grizzly and black bears of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are in hibernation – While They’re Sleeping.

While They’re Sleeping is generously sponsored by Jan & Bob Benz, Stephanie Brennan, The Brooks Foundation, Marnie Peterson-Coin & Tasso Coin, Halloran, Farkas, and Kitilla, LLP, In Celebration of Elizabeth McCabe, Kent Nelson, Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, and Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund.

About The Author

Sponsored by The National Museum of Wildlife Art

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