He was born in Colorado Springs, and spent a great deal of his life here in Colorado. He grew up living at a time where the west was still a beautiful combination of early settlers, Native Americans, frontiersman, trappers, and prospectors. His goal was to always tell the true story of his American West: the hardships, virtues, spirituality, work ethic, and daily life of all the people living here at the turn of the century.
The Happy Hunting Ground Mural for the Colorado National Bank photo collaged with Allen at work on this mural in the 1920s. This mural is the last in this series and has followed an American Indian Chief through his entire life. Sitting on his burial platform, ready to transition to the afterlife, you see him look back over his life through visions and spirits in the sky. Five blue herons help guide him onto his final journey. Photo Credit: Victoria Tupper Kirby in her book Allen Tupper True: An American Artist
Mountain Telephone Construction is in the outer lobby of the 14th Street entrance to the current Qwest building downtown Denver. Photo Credit: Victoria Tupper Kirby in her book Allen Tupper True: An American Artist
"Civic Center Park" 20" x 24" gouache on illustration board by Julie Leidel
Allen Tupper True studied at The University of Denver for a year, and then went out east to Delaware to study under Howard Pyle as a book and magazine illustrator from 1902 to 1907. He was drawn overseas to study art in London in 1908 and apprenticed with muralist Frank Brangwyn. Here he learned how to tell a powerful story through his mural work. He became a master of mural painting, and received many public mural contracts all over the American West. His first mural was sold to Anne Evans (daughter of Governor Evans) in 1912. He partnered with Brangwyn on the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco 1913-1915, and was commissioned for an astounding amount of murals (many not listed here but a few of note) for the Denver Public Library 1912-17, Wyoming State Capitol 1917, Denver Civic Center Park 1920, Colorado National Bank 1921-25, Missouri State Capitol 1922-1925, Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Company 1927-29, restoration to the Central City Oprah House and Teller House 1931-34, Colorado State Capitol 1934-40, The Brown Palace 1937, University of Denver 1946, Denver's City and County building 1950, and his last mural for the CU Students Union building in 1953-55 where he suffered from a stroke while working.
He was hired by the US Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation from 1934-42 to design color schemes and decorative floor designs for several dams and power houses including the Hoover dam. True was commissioned in 1935 to design the bucking bronco for the Wyoming license plate that is still used today. He also had many exhibits of his paintings nationally throughout his career, including a solo exhibition at the Denver Art Museum in 1947.
True had been allergic to turpentine for most of his life, which caused painful skin conditions and later caused him to work with egg tempura rather than oil paint, which was his first love. Many of his murals have been lost to time sadly, but some of the best examples of his mural work in Colorado can still be found at The Renaissance Hotel (in the historic Colorado National Bank Building) at 17th & Champa, and the Qwest Building (formerly the Mountain States Telephone company) at 14th & Curtis as well as the Brown Palace and the Colorado State Capitol.
As I work on my commission painting for Civic Center Park here in 2018, I'm reminded that each building in this painting (The Greek Theater, The Denver Public Library, and the Denver Art Museum) now house some of Allen Tupper True's work today. I wanted to honor True's lifetime of murals by paying homage to him through using what I call the "True Light" - his color palette through much of his collective body of work. His choice of color is extraordinary, bringing bold colors forward, mixing with the pastel coloring of the background. His illustrative painting method is also an inspiration to me as an artist.