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The Pageant of America: A Pictorial History of the United States - Vol. 1

By Clark Wissler; Constance Lindsay Skinner et al. | Go to book overview

NOTES ON THE PICTURES

THESE notes are predicated on the obvious fact that while historical pictures as visual aids giving swift mental impressions have a recognizable value for the teacher, student and general reader, they also have definite limitations. They vary in reliability. The original source of each picture is indicated in the attribution printed under the cut and this in many cases sufficiently establishes its authenticity. In some cases the text carries criticism or correction of the pictures. The many pictures of the sort called "fanciful" by historians, creations of the imagination of well-known painters, will call for reservation because of the very nature of their conception and execution. Comment and criticism on many such pictures are given in the notes that follow. An historical painter's reconstruction of an event which he did not witness may well express the spirit of the event and its local setting. More than this it cannot do. The painter can infuse a picture with the moral or religious significance of a great occasion, can translate a great moment of history in terms of its political meaning for posterity, or re-create a scene which has all the elements of a thrilling adventure. Pictures of the imagination, however, still remain what they are intended primarily to be, -- works of creative art and not historical works. As such, they are here subjected to criticism. They should be studied more for what they suggest than as literal renderings of the facts. With such considerations in mind the following notes, which make no pretense of completeness, have been prepared as preliminary aids to any who would examine the individual pictures more fully.

THE EDITORS

3, 4. Drawn from life in water color. Accurate though the drawing is crude. White was with the Raleigh expedition to Roanoke, 1585.

5. Modification by European influence is shown in these cuts.

6. Portrait from life.

7. Engraving after a lost original by Jacques Le Moyne, who was with French expedition to Florida in 1564. His sketches of Indians from life, through influence of Richard Hakluyt, obtained for de Bry Grands Voyages. Theodore de Bry ( 1528-98) was a German engraver and publisher at Frankfort. His son, Johannes Theodorus de Bry, carried on work after his death. De Bry's engravings illustrate explorations in both East and West. They vary from faithful copies of originals like the White drawings to purely fanciful sketches based on travelers' tales. He frequently took many liberties with originals. Historical value of each de Bry picture must be determined separately.

9. Accurate in essentials. The draftsman of the 19th century tried to visualize word descriptions of early Indian life in villages.

11. Indian palisaded village copied with Dutch legend from William Janszon Blaeu, whose Nieuwe Atlas, Amsterdam, 1642, has illustrations based evidently on de Bry.

12. Drawn from life by army officer.

13, 14. Artist studied in Paris under Gérôme, whose influence he shows. Painted several Indian subjects, essentially accurate in detail and spirit.

15. Drawing by Champlain on his travels in America. Essentially accurate.

16. See 7.

18. Essentially accurate.

19. Captain Seth Eastman, teacher of drawing at West Point, 1833-40, saw service in Indian country. Was chosen to illustrate Historical and Statistical Information respecting the History, Condition and Future Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, 1850-57, issued by the U. S. government. Work marked by accurate knowledge and careful detail.

20, 22, 23. See 3.

26. Lafitau (died 1740), a Jesuit missionary who lived many years among northern forest tribes, says in his work that some of the illustrations are based on de Bry. Referring to one of the sketches he says: "The engraver has forgotten to envelop the Indian in furs as the season demands."

27. See 19.

28, 29. See 7.

37, 38. See 19.

39. See 7.

40. See 26.

41. Essentially accurate.

42, 43. See 7.

45. Artist formerly member of staff American Museum of Natural History.

46. See 12.

47. See 26.

48. Accurate. Drawn from observation by French writer who spent 16 years ( 1718-1734) in Louisiana. Picture represents peace ceremony in presence of Bienville.

50. See 3.

54, 55. See 7.

56, 57. See 3.

58. See 19.

-345-

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