Enfilade

Forthcoming Title

Posted in books by Editor on July 4, 2010

William H. Truettner, Painting Indians and Building Empires in North America, 1710–1840 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010), 160 pages, ISBN: 9780520266315, $39.95, £27.95 (available in August)

Shortly after the first encounters between the Europeans who first explored and settled North America and the indigenous people, the Europeans began a visual record of their neighbors. Fascinated by these New World inhabitants, Euro-American artists expanded this enterprise, slowly at first but with increasing momentum in the years before and especially after the American Revolution. By the mid-nineteenth century, as this study reveals, a remarkable survey of Indian life in North America east of the Rocky Mountains had been compiled. Yet the purpose of these images has never been fully explored. Were they simply a historical record of the young nation moving westward—of native peoples seen at the end of their heyday, when their tribal homelands were slowly being overrun by white settlers? Or did images of Indian life fulfill other objectives for those who commissioned or painted them? In this book William H. Truettner argues that these images often discreetly encouraged efforts, first by the British and them by the Americans, to expand white hegemony across North America. Truettner’s informed, accessible readings of paintings by artists such as Benjamin West, Gilbert Stuart, Charles Bird King, and George Catlin relate these images to social and political events of the time and tell us much about how North American tribes would fare as they fought to survive during the second half of the nineteenth century.