America’s Golden Age premiered during the aftermath of the American Indian Wars, a series of conflicts between American settlers and Native Americans. These early settlers and Native Americans appeared frequently in artworks of the time, as they continued to interest the public and illustrators alike as America roared through the Golden Age.
Howard Pyle, ‘The Father of American Illustration,’ encouraged his Brandywine students to “jump into their paintings to know the place” they were depicting; in other words, to go and experience the environments. With artists getting commissions for American Western themes, many of them traveled West to witness the mystifying lives of the Native American inhabitants.
N.C. Wyeth especially took Pyle literally and went to live out west among the Utes and Navahos after The Saturday Evening Post commissioned him to illustrate a western story. Wyeth wrote home, “The life is wonderful, strange – the fascination of it clutches me like some unseen animal – it seems to whisper, ‘Come back, you belong here, this is your real home.”
Much of the Golden Age illustrator’s work embraced the Native American or early settlers theme, often depicting the Native Americans at harmony with their environment or early settlers acclimating to their new reality.
American Beginnings is a comprehensive collection of Native Americans and early American settlers through the eyes of the Golden Age Illustrators.