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Artist-explorer John Mix Stanley (1814–1872), one of the most celebrated chroniclers of the American West in his time, was in a sense a victim of his own success. So highly regarded was his work that more than two hundred of his paintings were held at the Smithsonian Institution—where in 1865 a fire destroyed all but seven of them. This volume, featuring a comprehensive collection of Stanley’s extant art, reproduced in full color, offers an opportunity—and ample reason—to rediscover the remarkable accomplishments of this outsize figure of nineteenth-century American culture.
Originally from New York State, Stanley journeyed west in 1842 to paint Indian life. During the U.S.-Mexican War, he joined a frontier military expedition and traveled from Santa Fe to California, producing sketches and paintings of the campaign along the way—work that helped secure his fame in the following decades. He was also appointed chief artist for Isaac Stevens’s survey of the 48th parallel for a proposed transcontinental railroad. The essays in this volume, by noted scholars of American art, document and reflect on Stanley’s life and work from every angle. The authors consider the artist’s experience on government expeditions; his solo tours among the Oregon settlers and western and Plains Indians; and his career in Washington and search for government patronage, as well as his individual works.
With contributions by Emily C. Burns, Scott Manning Stevens, Lisa Strong, Melissa Speidel, Jacquelyn Sparks, and Emily C. Wilson, the essays in this volume convey the full scope of John Mix Stanley’s artistic accomplishment and document the unfolding of that uniquely American vision throughout the artist’s colorful life. Together they restore Stanley to his rightful place in the panorama of nineteenth-century American life and art.