Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Emanuel Leutze: Study for Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way (Westward Ho!)

1861. Oil on canvas 33.25 x 43.375 in.
Current location: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.

This painting, by German native Emanuel Leutze, is a compilation of ideals regarding the conquest of the American West. Each portion of the scenery depicts common examples of both struggles and achievements of exploring the west. In the foreground, settlers begin to see the landscape of their destination: the coastline of the Pacific Ocean. These figures, including the guide, point to their ultimate goal with expressions of joy, satisfaction, and relief. Just beyond the foreground, other settlers are portrayed in manners of exerting physical and mental anguish. Note the burial cross and recently deceased. Centered, atop a soaring peak, two settlers climb and wave victoriously over their feat. Also take notice of the placement of major landmarks; Pacific Ocean (left), plateaus (center), and Rocky Mountains (Right).

The surrouding framework consists of small scenes which exemplify the earlier stages of the conquest for he west. The two lower corner portaits, Daniel Boone (left) and William Clark (right), portray the merging of unique cultures in America. Clark wears clothing made of furs and hides in the manner of Native Americans.

Like the works of Nicolas Poussin, Benjamin West, and Theodore Gericault, the painting is composed with the images places in orderly pyramid fashion. Leutze also used this style in "The Storming of the teocalli by Cortez and His Troops" 1848. It gives the viewer a rising sense of importance to certain figures.

"Description of Westward the Course of Empire..." Accessed on Feb. 15, 2011, http://www.fandm.edu/

Image 1 found at: http://people.virginia.edu/
Image 2 found at: http://www.csub.edu/

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