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American Paintings of the Western Frontier

German-American painter Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) was not the first artist to paint the untamed American West, but his paintings are unrivaled in their ability to convey the wilderness of that impressive and mythologized landscape to a public who had not yet set eyes on its majesty. Other artists had travelled into the Western frontier in the 19thcentury, but Bierstadt’s work in the West is considered some of the most significant artistic accomplishments of that period in American painting. Bierstadt was primaruly self-taught and began his professional career as an art instructor. In 1853, he travelled from his home in New Bedford, MA to Germany to study with members of the Düsseldorf School of artists. In 1859, after returning to the US, Bierstadt made his first trip to the rugged territories out West, and would travel there again for an extended stay in 1863. It was during this second visit that Bierstadt first saw the dramatic fourteen-thousand foot snow-covered peak named Long’s Peak near Denver, CO. In this depiction of the view, Bierstadt captures the drama and beauty of the landscape that captivated him throughout his career.

We are pleased to offer Long’s Peak, Estes Park, Colorado in The Fine Sale on May 18th.

Another German-born painter named Karl Ferdinand Wimar, known as Charles Wimar and Carl Wimar (1828-1862), immigrated to the United States at the age of fifteen with his family, settling in St. Louis, MO which had a large German-immigrant population in the mid-19th century. In 1852, Wimar also travelled back to Germany to study paiinting at the Düsseldorf Academy. It was during his time in Düsseldorf, c. 1853, that he painted several works titled The Abduction of Daniel Boone’s Daughter by the Indians. Wimar was fascinated by the American frontier, and in particular by the conflict between Native Americans and American settlers. For this work, Wimar used for his subject the daughter of Daniel Boone whose exploits in the frontier west of the Thirteen Colonies was widely known and glorified. The theme of captivity and abduction of white settlers by Native Americans was broadly portrayed in fine art and literature at this time, helping to justify and glorify the colonization of the American West. In this version of the subject, the composition shows three Native Americans abductiong Jemima Boone as she picked wildflowers along the Kentucky River. Jemima is shown in the pose of a praying saint or martyr, furthering the notion that white Christians were innocent and pure, and that the Native Americans were barbarous savages. Wimar painted this composition in large and small format. The larger version is in the collection of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis, MO.

We are pleased to be offering the small version in our upcoming Fine Sale on May 18th. Wimar also painted another small version of the subject in 1855 that shows Jemima on a raft being paddled down the river by a group of Native Americans. It is interesting to note that in the time between the painting of these two different compostions of the same subject, 1853 to 1855, Wimar seems to have softened his view on the savagery of the Native Americans, as shown in the later work where Jemima is shown sitting on the raft rather than praying for her life. This version of the subject is in th ecollection of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Forth Worth, TX. We are also pleased to be offering a second painting by Charles Wimar in the May 18th sale. Another Native American subject, this one titled The Captive Charger (or Indians with Horses), was painted in 1851,  just before Wimar returned to Germany. It too illustrates Wimar’s keen interest in the American West of the mid-19th century.

Time & Location

The Fine Sale on May 18 at 11am

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