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Views of the American West

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Rocky Mountains
Albert Bierstadt. "The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak." New York: Edward Bierstadt, 1866. Steel engraving by James Smillie. 16 1/2 x 28. Excellent condition. Framed to museum standards. Denver.

The earliest art of the American west tended to focus on the Indians and their culture. After mid-century, this theme slowly gave way to more of a concern with landscape and genre subjects. Perhaps the most influential artist associated with this change was Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902). He was born in Germany, near Düsseldorf, grew up in the United States, and in his twenties studied at the Düsseldorf Academy in Germany. There he was deeply impressed by the tradition of heroic painting for which that school was famous. In 1858, soon after returning to America, Bierstadt paid his own way in order to accompany General F.W. Lander on an expedition to improve the wagon route from Fort Laramie to California. Bierstadt was tremendously impressed with the Rocky Mountains, which provided him with the subject matter for his most famous paintings. Bierstadt passed through the Rockies in the nascent days of the great American expansion west; the transcontinental railroad, the pony express, and most of the Indian wars lay in the future. Thus Bierstadt saw and absorbed an almost pristine frontier, for which the rocky peaks provided an emphatic exclamation.

After he returned east, Bierstadt straight away began to work on his western canvases, exhibiting his first Rocky Mountain painting in 1860 at the National Academy, where it was very well received. Thus encouraged, Bierstadt continued to produce large, dramatic mountain landscapes, which reached a peak with his large and sensational 1863 canvas, "The Rocky Mountains." This painting immediately received popular acclaim, establishing Bierstadt, in the minds of some of the public and critics, as the greatest American landscape artist of his day. This painting traveled widely and was purchased by James McHenry for the then fantastic sum of $25,000. Following this, Bierstadt received many commissions for new works, was acclaimed at home and abroad, and hobnobbed with the rich and royal. His canvases continued to dramatically portray the awe-inspiring grandeur of the Rockies. His were "the first paintings to capture successfully the wonder and excitement that the artist and other early trail blazers felt when they confronted the spectacular western scenery." (Trenton & Hassrick, The Rocky Mountains, Oklahoma, 1983) The success of "The Rocky Mountain" painting spurred Bierstadt to ask James Smillie, one of the best American engravers, to make an engraving of the image. Smillie took three years to produce this magnificent print. $7,400

Buffle hunting
"Bueffeljago in America/Chasse au bison/Buffle hunting." Berlin: F. Silber, ca. 1860. 10 1/2 x 15. Lithograph. Original hand color. Very good condition. Framed. Denver.

A terrific German print of "Buffle" hunting in America from the German popular print publisher F. Silber. The scene is dramatic, with a very large bison trampling a fallen rider, while three other riders, an Indian on foot, and a pack of dogs harass the monster. The Germans were fascinated by the American West in the nineteenth century and there were many print produced there on the topic. The Germans were also a bit confused, for the "cowboys" are shown in Gaucho dress and one is shown using a bolas. A wonderful cross-cultural image! $750

Cliffs of Green River
Thomas Moran. "The Cliffs of Green River." [Wyoming.] Premium for The Aldine. New York, 1874. 12 x 16. Chromolithograph. Mounted on original board as issued. Some light touchup in sky. Very good condition. With period frame. Denver.

The Aldine was published from 1868 until 1879 as "the art journal of America." Within its pages were fine commissioned images by such famous artists as Thomas Moran. Like other magazines of the period, The Aldine issued some separate prints as premiums for subscribers, including two fine chromolithographs after Moran that were issued in 1874. One scene was of the West ("The Cliffs of Green River") and one of the West ("White Mountains.") In the promotion for the prints, The Aldine's editors stated that the "chromos are each worked from thirty distinct plates, and are in size (12 x 16) and appearance exact facsimiles of the originals." Moran was quoted as saying "I am delighted with the proofs in color of your chromos. They are wonderfully successful representations by mechanical process of the original paintings." $1,500

Fort Laramie
Views from John C. Frémont's Report of The Exploring Expedition to The Rocky Mountains in the year 1842 and to Oregon and North California in the years 1843-44. Washington: U.S. Senate, 1845. Lithographs by E. Weber & Co., Baltimore. Ca. 4 x 7 1/2. Very good condition. Denver.

Captain John C. Frémont, popularly known as the "Pathfinder," was instrumental in opening the American West. In 1842, Frémont was sent out by the U.S. Government to explore what soon came to be known as the Oregon Trail, as far west as the South Pass through the Rockies. The following years, Frémont was sent out again, at the instigation of Senator Thomas Hart Benton (Frémont's father-in-law) to further explore the northwest part of the country, following the Oregon Trail all the way to the Pacific Ocean. In 1845, the government issued a report of these two expeditions which covered vast lands between the Missouri River and the Pacific Ocean. Through this report Frémont achieved great fame, leading to his election as Senator from California and later to his selection as the first Presidential nominee for the Republican Party. This report is one of the monumental works on Western exploration and the views from it are some of the earliest first-hand images of what was then an almost completely unknown American West.

Go to listing of facsimile set of maps by Charles Preuss based on Frémont's expeditions

Fort Union
John Mix Stanley, "Fort Union, and Distribution of Goods to the Assinniboines." From Pacific Railroad Survey Reports. Washington: GPO, 1860. Tinted lithograph by Sarony, Major & Knapp. 6 x 9. Very good condition. Denver.

In the 1850's the houses of the United States Congress were in a stalemate over many differences between the North and the South. One pressing issue was that of a transcontinental railroad, for there was a crying need for fast and reliable transportation to the burgeoning west. In Congress there was a strong rivalry between a faction which wanted a northern route and one, spearheaded by Jefferson Davis, which wanted a southern route. In 1853 Congress appropriated $150,000 for a survey of the possible routes for a transcontinental railroad to the Pacific. Expeditions were sent out with instructions to not only survey but also to make a full report on the general nature of the country, including flora and fauna, geology, climate, etc.. The reports from these exhibitions were issued in a series of twelve volumes between 1855 and 1861.

This particular print was from the Isaac Stevens's survey of the route between the 47th and 49th parallels. John Mix Stanley provided the illustrations. Previously known for his paintings of Native Americans, Stanley became an important survey artist first, with the Akerman Expedition and later, with Stevens. This image shows one of the most important fur trading posts on the upper Missouri. $150
GoGo to page with listing of other views from the Pacific Railroad Surveys

Spanish Peaks
James W. Abert. "Las Cumbres Españolas." From A Report and Map of the Examination of New Mexico, In The Years. Washington: Wendell & Van Benthuysen, 1848. 4 1/4 x 7 1/4. Lithograph. Very good condition. Denver.

After the Mexican-American War, Lieutenant James W. Abert remained in Bent's Fort with a fever, while other officers in the Army of the West moved on to California. Upon his recovery he was assigned, along with Lieutenant William G. Peck, to explore the newly acquired territory of New Mexico. In late 1847 and '48 they explored New Mexico, examining the mines in the region and looking for the legendary Seven Cities of Cibola. They did encounter the pueblo cities of Cibolleta, Moquino, Pajuate, Covero, Laguna, Rito and Acoma, which Abert realized were those cities found by Coronado in his search for Cibola. Abert and Peck gathered important information on the economic potential, geography and geology, and population and political situation in the region. His report included some fine lithographed views presenting the new U.S. territory to the American public. This view shows the Spanish Peaks which at the time were in the New Mexico Territory, but now are in Colorado. $75
GoGo to page with listing of western surveys

Beard: Westward Ho!
James H. Beard. "Westward Ho." New York: Crosby Opera House Art Association, 1866. Engraving by T. Dwight Booth. Printed by W. Pate, N.Y. Steel engraving. 22 1/2 x 29 3/4. Full margins. A tear extending one inch into plate mark at left, not touching image, and small chip in top margin. Otherwise, very good condition and impression. Denver.

A classic frontier image by James Henry Beard (1812-1893). This exaltation of westward expansion was printed at the beginning of the period of greatest migration. Beard's scene shows a pioneer family living in a lean-to, before they had cleared the forest and built their cabin. Beard presents the tableaux in the shape of a perfect neoclassical triangle formed by the central figure of the father and balanced by the family and their animals. The limestone formations in the background suggests the Missouri River as a location, but this is really a paradigm image of "Westward Ho." $1,350

Western Clearing
W.H. Bartlett. "Western Clearing." From The Ladies' Repository: A Monthly Periodical, Devoted To Literature and Religion. Cincinnati: March 1855. 4 1/2 x 7 1/4. Engraving by C.A. Jewett & Co. Very good condition.

A wonderfully evocative image of a pioneer family's home in a clearing in the western wood. This if from the magazine, The Ladies' Repository, a periodical produced in Cincinnati by members of the Methodist Church. It was a magazine "Devoted To Literature and Region," containing articles, poetry, fiction, and notes of interest to its readers. One of its most interesting aspects was the inclusion of engravings including a number of views of scenes around North America. $65

Central City
Alfred Edward Mathews. "Central City; From the side of Mammoth Hill looking up Gregory and Eureka Gulches." Plate 9 from Pencil Sketches of Colorado, Its Cities, Principal Towns and Mountain Scenery. New York: A.E. Mathews, 1866. Tinted lithograph by J. Bien. 9 3/4 x 16. Tear into image at bottom from left. Print expertly conserved and lined with rice paper. Very good appearance. Denver.

A.E. Mathews (1831-1874) was born in England, but came to the United States at an early age and ended up being raised in Ohio. He worked as a typesetter, itinerant bookseller, and school teacher, with a predilection for landscape sketching. During the Civil War he served in the Union Army with Ohio troops, and made a number of excellent first hand images of scenes behind the front, which were issued by the Cincinnati firm of Ehrgott & Forbriger. After the war, Mathews settled in Denver where he produced a number of portfolios of views of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado and Montana, including the 1866 Pencil Sketches of Colorado from which this print comes. These views are among the earliest views of the burgeoning American west after the Civil War. Mathews took pains to make the views accurate and thus they provide important historical documentation of this important phase of American expansion to the west. Of this view, Mathews said:

"In the view looking up Spring Gulch, Missouri City lies at the head of the gulch, and on the right, in the distance, is Quartz Hill. Just beyond the city, and at the foot of Quartz Hill, are the works of the Montana Gold Mining Company; and further up the gulch the works of the Pacific National Company are seen. In Nevada Gulch, which branches off to the right from Spring Gulch, are the Central Gold Mining Company's Works; and immediately this side, the roof of the Columbia Gold Mining Company's works are seen. The view was taken from the hill-side east of the town, and in the rear of the Theatre."

The Mathews views are among the rarest western images and this is a fine example, showing a Colorado mine city in that brief time when it was bursting with energy and people. $1,800

Moran Grand Canyon
Thomas Moran. "Grand Canyon of Arizona From Hermit Rim Road." Chicago: Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway System, 1913. 25 1/2 x 35 1/4. Chromolithograph by Gustave Buek for the American Lithographic Co. Mounted to board without margins, as issued. Top 1" of sky trimmed. Otherwise, very good condition and appearance. In lovely wood frame. Ref: Joni Louise Kinsey. Thomas Moran and the Surveying of the American West, 1992. Denver.

A spectacular American chromolithograph of Thomas Moran's famous image of the Grand Canyon from the Hermit Rim. Moran is one of America's best painters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and he is particularly known for his luminous paintings of the American west. Moran was born in England in 1837 and immigrated to the U.S. with his family in 1844. Moran trained in England and Europe, but his best work is rooted in the natural wonders of his adopted country.

Moran accompanied the 1871 Ferdinand V. Hayden expedition to the Yellowstone, and upon his return he produced a superb group of watercolors which Boston publisher Louis Prang turned into 15 chromolithographs which he issued in a portfolio limited to 1,000 copies. The success of these marvelous prints inspired Moran to head west again two years later. In 1873 he joined John Wesley Powell, who had navigated the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 1869, on another expedition to the Grand Canyon. This trip resulted in a painting taken from the Kaibab Plateau on the north rim, which in turn was turned into this stunning chromolithograph.

The promotion of the Grand Canyon was pursued by corporations that stood to profit from their association. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway looked to art as one of many ways to increase the number of passengers on its railways. For many years the company was the only direct route to the Grand Canyon. Along with Moran, the company also financed other artists to visit the area to paint. In this way the Company acquired a large collection of original art to decorate stations, offices and hotels. Some of the paintings were reproduced on letterheads, ink blotters and chromolithographs, which were distributed to passengers as souvenirs or printed as public advertisements. Moran's original painting is still in the possession of the company. However, the Santa Fe did not acquire the painting directly from Moran, but purchased it from the American Lithographic Co., who had bought it from Moran's Chicago dealer. For the sum of $4,000 the railroad received the oil and reproduction rights along with 2,500 chromolithographs that the Passenger Department distributed. This grand image was also reproduced in the company's annual calendars for many years. The American Lithographic Co. also produced an earlier and equally excellent chromolithograph in 1892 of a different Moran view of the Grand Canyon. $4,500

Yosemite chromo
"Yosemite Valley-Cathedral Rock." New York: Colton, Zahm, & Roberts, ca. 1870. Chromolithograph, mounted on original canvas backing with publisher stamp. 11 x 13 3/4. In original frame with original label on back (though with wear so artist name cannot be read). Some creases in surface, with slight cracking; else very good condition. Denver.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, print publishers began to issue chromolithographs that were intended to duplicate the appearance of oil paintings. This style of print was developed by Prang & Co. out of Boston, but soon other publishers joined in. These prints were a way for Americans of the middle class to hang art work that had the appearance of oil paintings in their homes at prices they could afford. Colton, Zahm, & Roberts was a firm from New York that issued a number of these prints, including this lovely view of Yosemite Valley, with Cathedral Rock in the distance. The artist was listed on the original label, but it has been so worn as to be illegible. The composition and quality of this print indicates the artist was of some skill. With the handsome original frame, this is a fine example of American printmaking in the post-Civil War period. $750

Ladies Repository
F.N. Otis. "San Francisco (From Rincon Point)." From The Ladies' Repository: A Monthly Periodical, Devoted To Literature and Religion. Cincinnati: February 1857. 4 3/4 x 8. Steel engraving by W. Wellstood. Very good condition.

An unusual and scarce steel engraving from The Ladies' Repository. This mid-nineteenth century periodical was produced in Cincinnati by members of the Methodist Church. It was a magazine "Devoted To Literature and Religion," containing articles, poetry, fiction, and notes of interest to its readers. One of its most interesting aspects was the inclusion of steel engravings. Many had a religious or "genre" theme, but others were topographical views of different parts of the United States. This magazine had a limited circulation and so these prints are quite a bit more scarce than most steel engravings of the period. Some of the views are based on images by W.H. Bartlett, but others are taken either from some of the large folio views of the period or are drawn first hand for The Ladies' Repository. Whatever their source, these are among the most interesting and hard-to-find American views of the middle of last century. $165
GoGo to views of California pages

Prints by Currier & Ives. New York. Lithographs. Original hand color. Very good condition, except as noted. Denver.

The Currier & Ives firm was America's greatest nineteenth century printmaker, providing for the American people a pictorial history of their own development. One of their most popular topics was the American frontier and western expansion. The following prints are not clear-eyed documentations of this epoch of American history, but rather they wonderfully express the idealized image most Americans had of the great western migration.

Across the Rocky Mountains
"Across the Rocky Mountains." Cincinnati: William M. Donaldson & Co., 1879. 22 1/2 x 29 1/2. Chromolithograph. Margins trimmed to image as originally issued. Very good condition. In period frame. Denver.

A majestic Western scene, produced in chromolithography by the Donaldson company in Cincinnati. This firm specialized in circus posters, but also produced fine chromolithographs for framing and display, such as this dramatic print. The Rocky Mountains are shown towering over a forested valley. Snow, clouds and mist hug the mountain peaks. In the foreground are some Indians pointing as the train bursts thru the tunnel opening. Much of the West was still unknown at this time. The whole scene is a wonderful representation of Manifest Destiny. Man's ability to over come any topographical obstacle and his inevitable quest to conquer the West. Overall a very atmospheric and dramatic image of the Rocky Mountains. $2,600

Overland Emigration
Mid-century western scenes. From The New World. New York: G. & F. Bill, 1857. Wood engravings. Original hand color. Ca. 4 1/2 x 7. Very good condition.

We tend to think of the "myth of the west" as a modern notion, but it really began as the great migration to the American west was going on. Illustrated newspapers (cf. below) and popular books contained many reports and illustrations of settlers as they moved across the Mississippi. These images come from a popular history of the United States issued in 1857. They are good examples of how Americans at the time viewed the emigration west.

Cavalry pursing Indians
Prints of the Indian Wars. From The United States Army and Navy. Akron, Ohio: Werner Company, 1899. Chromolithographs. All ca. 9 1/4 x 13 1/4. Very good condition, except some with minor marginal tears (repaired) and as noted. Denver.

A series of dramatic prints illustrating the American Indian wars after the Civil War. The prints are from a series on the United States Army and Navy, and each print captures in detail the various types of uniforms worn by each service and by rank. The scenes are unusual in depicting military action, with the troops attacking or being attacked.

Mount Shasta
J.D. Smillie. "Mount Shasta." From Picturesque America. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1873. Steel engraving by E.F. Brandard. 5 3/4 x 9 1/8. Hand color. Excellent condition.

A handsome print from Picturesque America. This two volume set provided a glimpse of nineteenth century America--its towns, cities, rivers, ports, important architecture- through its text and illustrations. Most of the images were of eastern locations, but this is one of the few showing the American West. In it, Mount Shasta looms over an Indian encampment near the forest. $135

Gold DiggingSpacerZuni Pueblo

Prints by Herrmann J. Meyer. New York, ca. 1855. Engravings. Ca. 4 x 6. Very good condition.

Herrmann J. Meyer and his father, Joseph Meyer, were German publishers of an illustrated travel series called Meyer's Universum. Joseph Meyer very much admired the United States and sent his son to establish a publishing house in New York. Herrmann proceeded to publish an American edition of the Universum, but also desired to publish a new series of his own called, The United States Illustrated. Meyer enlisted the services of Charles A. Dana editor of the New York Tribune to serve as editor of the series. Unfortunately, the series did not do well, and Meyer decided to return to Germany. After the death of his father, he assumed control of their Bibliographischen Institut which is still in business today. The prints from Meyer's various publications are mostly based on first-hand renderings and are finely engraved. They are some of the most interesting and desirable small views of the trans-Mississippi West.

Sioux War
"The Sioux War--Cavalry Charge of Sully's Brigade at the Battle of White Stone Hill, September 3, 1863." From Harper's Weekly. New York: October 21, 1863. 9 x 14. Wood engraving. Denver.

Harper's Weekly was a weekly newspaper filled with woodblock illustrations by many of the leading American artists of the last half of the nineteenth century. It, and other illustrated newspapers of the day, provide one of the only sources for contemporary images of the American West during the nineteenth century. Drawn by a number of expert artists, including Frederic Remington, Charles Graham, R.F. Zogbaum and Thomas Moran, these images are just now beginning to be appreciated not only as decorative and affordable, but as having their own historic value for the collector. This is a fine contemporary view of a Cavalry charge during the Sioux War of 1863. $95
GoGo to page with other images of the Native Americans from illustrated newspapers


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