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Camera and Canvas

Photography is ideal for conveying the splendor of the western landscape and for portraits of the West.  It is also the most central technical ancestor of movies.  However, its direct influence is limited by the slow speed of the first negative plates and by the cumbersome equipment.  

Though important as a record of how the West looks, is second-rate to painting as a medium in which to show action.  This is the core of the Western film and sustains its popularity.

Until the last third of the 1800s, most paintings of the West aim at producing an accurate record of the land and its inhabitants, both native and settler.  Then, with the growth of the means of mass reproductions, especially chromolithography, and the success of large circulation magazines such as Harper's Weekly, comes a new demand for stirring scenes of action and adventure.  

Western artists paintings reinforces the tendency in popular literature and drama towards making the Western synonymous with exciting narrative.

Among the artist, they include:

George Catlin devotes himself to paint the Native Americans and to bring an capture their culture.  In 1832, he journeys up the Missouri River and produces hundreds of paintings of tribes.  His next trip is into Comanche territory.  They provide him with more material to paint.  He is the one of the first to bring the live of the Native American peoples to an international audience.  His produces a two-volume �Notes to the Manners, Customs and Condition of the North American Indians� (1841).

Seth Eastman starts his career as an army officer.  It was in the field he becomes interested in the Native American people and their culture.  His paints capture this impulse.  His wife Mary writes a number of books about the Native Americans and he illustrators them.  Among they includes �Dakotah: Life and Legends of the Sioux� (1849).

Frederic Remington is without a doubt the most famous Western artist.  After dropping out of Yale, he heads West to Montana.  He decides to devote his life to capturing the West on his canvas and drawing book.  

In 1886, Harper�s Weekly prints his first pictures.  General George Crook�s Geronimo campaign, Remington illustrates the action.  Harper�s Weekly and Outing magazines publish his works.  He is now one of the most important illustrators.  He also has a number of books to his credit and a novel �John Ermine of the Yellowstone� (1902).


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