This first-ever retrospective includes 60 key pieces by the relatively unknown artist John Mix Stanley (18141872). A prominent painter of the American West in the mid-1800s, Stanley captured subjects through extensive journeys and expeditions to the primarily undeveloped region. In his day, Stanley was best known for his portraits of Native Americans. He approached these portraits like fine art subjects, with aesthetic considerations rather than straightforward documentations characteristic of other artists at the time.
Stanleys artistic legacy is unique in that most of his lifes work perished in a number of fires, most notable being the 1865 fire at the Smithsonian, where his Indian Gallery collection of over 150 pieces was lost.
In Stanleys life as an artist-explorer, he ventured over 8,000 miles back and forth across the Western Territories and as far as the Kingdom of Hawaii. He was the official artist on an expedition to survey a northern railroad route from the Great Lakes to Puget Sound, which today ends in Tacoma, WA.
The prolific artist painted beautifully rendered scenes showing the vast beauty of the landscape and its inhabitants during a rapidly changing period of time. Depictions of small villages at their start, like the river valley scene in Oregon City on the Willamette River (circa 1852), as well as scenes showing Indigenous people in their lands, give a moving perspective on the history of the Western frontier at the dawn of colonization.