Founded by Philip Anschutz whose goal was to create a collection of real value that is a survey of American painting in the West.
The collection spans nearly 180 years of American history, and has over 650 paintings and drawings with more than 200 artists represented from early 1800s to the present.
Primary goals are to show how each generation of artists chose to represent the West and how their work impacted succeeding generations. Anschutz made all acquisition and deaccesions decisions himself but had three key advisors. In 1989, the Collection toured the Soviet Union with great acclaim.
Anschutz made his money from oil exploration, real estate, and railroads, and in 1992 purchased the Southern Pacific Railroad. He began the collection in the early 1960s as he was near graduation from the University of Kansas.
He was much influenced by his mother, Marian Pfister Anschutz, who encouraged him to have wide interests.