THE WEST OF THE IMAGINATION by William H. & William N. Goetzmann Goetzmann
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In the tradition of Cosmos and Civilization, another elegant volume designed to accompany a PBS series (due to air in September). Here with the aid of 370 illustrations, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian (William H., Exploration and Empire, 1967) and an art historian/curator present a lively exposition of how visual artists have informed and shaped our understanding of the American frontier. The authors wisely focus their survey of Western art on the gallery of colorful personalities who have roamed the West documenting the landscapes and native peoples encountered during America's march to Manifest Destiny. From the teen-age painter with the glorious name of Titian Peale, who compiled the first systematic record of Western wildlife, to Frederick Remington, who spent his life in a herculean attempt (over 2700 paintings) to capture the vanishing ways of the American Indian, the authors enlighten through a series of fascinating brief biographies. They emphasize the acute self-awareness most artists brought to their role in forming the popular vision of the West, an awareness which usually underscored the predominately documentary nature of the art of the West, but which sometimes led to the hubris of myth-making, most notably in the spate of fantastic and polemical paintings depicting Custer's defeat at Little Big Horn and, later on, in film's influential and inaccurate depiction of the Indian as a noble savage. The authors conclude their roundup with incisive discussions of important 20th-century artists, including contemporary Hispanics and Native Americans, filmmakers like John Ford and Sam Peckinpaugh, television cowboys, and ""the transcendent West of Georgia O'Keefe."" A handsome and vital contribution to Americana.

Pub Date: Oct. 13th, 1986
ISBN: 0806135336
Publisher: Norton