With this series I'd like to explore how artistic portrayals of Native Americans by white men have developed over time. How does the white settlers' perception of nature reflect upon their perception of the Native American culture?
Looking through the set I think you will find that the Native Americans begin as a foreign people that the white settlers are interested in developing a working relationship with.
Over time the Natives are portrayed as hostile, savage, and the art depicting them and their customs emphasizes their "otherness".
A turning point occurs in 1875 when the medium of photography is introduced. Suddenly the viewer is able to see the Native man as he actually was. Though the photograph was directed by a white man, which likely influenced the pose and location chosen, the Native American man pictured looks nothing like the men in Osage Scalp Dance or Ball-play of the Choctaw.
As we move into the 20th century a completely different idea Native American people begins to emerge within the art. No longer are the paintings done with muted tones of brown, orange and red. We see the Native Americans acting as healers, women begin to emerge into the spotlight, and the men on horseback begin to resemble white American cowboys wandering through a deserted natural landscape.
The literature we have read portrays a similar relationship with nature. A Model of Christian Charity of John Winthrop idealizes the virgin American continent and all it has to offer the immigrants. J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur speaks harshly of those who leave civilization and move out into the vast wilderness inhabited by a nation he does not know or trust. Walt Whitman encouraged his readers to "Love the earth and sun and the animals" in his book Leaves of Grass. With this revived interest in nature and exploration came genuine interest and tolerant attitudes toward a people who had been persecuted for so long.