American Western Art Movement

USA, 1840 - Present Day

American Western Art, History, Cowboy Paintings & Artists.

There is no formal name for American Western Art, Old West Art, or American Frontier Art, but it is sometimes referred to as "Cowboy or Western Art" by Americans. This art also incorporates some Native American crafts. Subjects included exploration of the western states and cowboy, rancher, and Indian themes. Popular artists such as Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell are two of the many who captured the "Old West" or "Wild West" in canvas oil paintings. The genre of painting prospers in variety and prominence inside the United States. The exploration, settlement, abuse, and conflicts of the American Old West form a unique history of events, which has been celebrated by Americans and foreigners alike, in art. This celebration continues to this day.

The Mythologizing of the Wild West: Propaganda for the East.

The mythologizing of the West began with traveling minstrel shows in the 1840s. However, artists/explorers that embarked on expeditions to chart and record new unexplored western terrain and peoples. These paintings were exhibited back east to the curious public, showing the majestic landscapes, Indians, and the Cavalry and cowboys who fought them to gain new territory. During the same period, P. T. Barnum's carnival circus introduced Indian chiefs, dances, and other Wild West exhibits in his exhibition halls. However, when dime novels were introduced in 1859, public awareness skyrocketed. By simplifying reality and exaggerating and misrepresenting reality, the novels captured the general population's attention with sensational stories of savagery and bravery and fixed in the public's mind stereotypical images of heroes in white and villains in black, courageous ranchers and savage Indians, temperate lawmen and merciless outlaws, brave pioneers and ruthless cattlemen, and railroad men.

Elite Eastern artists of the late 19th century advanced and appreciated western legends. Their artwork was featured in upscale national magazines. For example, Harper's Weekly included illustrations by Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell, and others.

Historians of the American West have written about the mythic West, art, and people's shared recollections. The phenomenon has given rise to the expression, "Imagined West." The "Code of the West" was an unwritten, agreed-upon set of casual laws forming the cowhand culture of the Old West. After some time, the Cowboys built up a distinct culture, a blend of values that even retained vestiges of chivalry. Such perilous work in remote areas fostered a culture of self-reliance and independence, with a high value placed on individual trustworthiness. The code also included the Gunfighter myths, which in some cases followed a type of code duel adopted from the Old South to settle disputes. There was a certain amount of Wild West character due to the wild creatures and wild Indians, but more so due to the free for all mentality that pervaded regular day-to-day existence in the western regions. This is shown in the real and mythologized artworks of the famous painters who saw the West first-hand and others who envisioned it from their comfortable studios back east.

Adapted in part from Wikipedia

Famous American Western Art Movement Oil Painting Reproductions

American Western Art Movement Painters Biography & Painting Reproductions

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