The West as America: Reinterpreting Images of the Frontier, 1820-1920

William H. Truettner, Editor, Howard R. Lamar, Introduction by Smithsonian Books $65 (408p) ISBN 978-1-56098-023-0
As American settlers pushed ever westward from 1820 to 1920, artists fleshed out the theme of inevitable expansion. This attractively illustrated study--a tie-in with a touring exhibition--brilliantly reassesses Western and frontier art, demonstrating how such painters as Albert Bierstadt, George Catlin, Thomas Moran, George Caleb Bingham and Frederic Remington drew a veil over unsavory aspects of frontier life. Instead, the text argues, the artists subtly substituted a myth of secular progress, in which settlers went west to tame the wilderness, uplift ``savages'' or spread the gospel of democracy. Led by Truettner, a curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art, seven scholars decode Capitol murals, landscapes of Edenic wilderness, portraits of Indians, and idealized views of cowboys, squatters, ranchers and river-boaters that have nurtured popular images of the Wild West. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/04/1991
Release date: 02/01/1991
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 389 pages - 978-1-56098-024-7
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