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Images of History: Indians in American Art

Images of History: Indians in American Art

(p.35) 2 Images of History: Indians in American Art
History's Shadow
University of Chicago Press

Indians were everywhere when the American nation was born, present at some of the critical moments of revolution and founding. They were depicted frequently in popular images of major events made during the first half of the nineteenth century. Given the space that Native Americans occupied in American intellectual life, and in the cultural imagination, it should come as no surprise that American visual culture was populated with Indians as well. After all, images of Indians constitute the very earliest representations of the New World brought back by explorers and conquerors in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. This chapter examines a few artists and a few kinds of images to explore the relationship between art and history, the place of Indians in both, and how that place changed over the course of the century. The chapter thus constitutes a particular, perhaps idiosyncratic history of nineteenth-century American art, looking at some familiar figures such as Benjamin West, George Catlin, Albert Bierstadt, and Edward Curtis, as well as some more obscure figures, such as Charles Bird King and Elbert Ayer Burbank.

Keywords:   Native Americans, American art, Indians, popular images, cultural imagination, artists, art and history

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