Friday, April 3, 2015

Art of the American West. William Cary. A-Z Challenge

Buffalo Bill on Charlie. nd. William Cary.  (1840-1922)

 Dover Publications
Buffalo Bill, the symbol of the imagined West, partly myth, and folk hero.  His real name was William F. Cody, born in Iowa in 1846. During the Civil War he served as an Indian Scout in campaigns against the Kiowa and the Camanche Indians, and was part of the Seventh Kansas Cavalry. In 1867 he hunted buffalo for the construction crews of the Kansas Pacific Railroad and by his own count killed 4,280 head of buffalo in 17 months, which gave him the name, Buffalo Bill.

He was the hero of the dime novels of Ned Buntline which led him to star in plays written by Buntline, embelishing the myths of the West. In between acting, he escorted wealthy Easterners and European nobility on Western hunting expeditions.

In later years he created a Wild West show in 1883 which highlighted frontier life:  a buffalo hunt with real buffalo, and Indian attack on the Deadwood stage with real Indians, a Pony Express ride, and a presentation of Custer's Last Stand with Indians who had fought the actual battle, the Lakotas. This show was a huge success and toured for 30 years here in America and in Europe. 

Not all was celebrity life, in 1890 he helped restore peace after the massacre in Wounded Knee bringing some of the Indians from his troupe who helped restore order. 

Indian Scout, Army Veteran, actor, entrepreneur, Buffalo Bill died in 1917 and is buried on Lookout Mountain near Denver, Colorado.
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William Cary, the artist, was known as one of the last artists to portray Native American themes before railroad development opened the West  He had first-hand knowledge of the Plains Indians way of life before the Indians were confined to the reservations.

20 comments:

  1. Hi Natasha. The Wild West show was very successful in the UK, touring for months and playing at Windsor Castle for Queen Victoria in the 1880s. This picture doesn't do anything to dispel the romantic image of the old West. I refer western movies when they are a little more realistic. Dances with Wolves is a favourite.
    Listening to: Robert Palmer's She Makes My Day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCZvXWEktxY
    CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

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    1. Dances with Wolves is a terrific movie. There are so many ways to view the Westward Expansion, but people preferred to romanticize the idea of the land, unlimited resources, romantic heroes, cowboys, and the rest, not thinking too hard about the displacement of the Indians. I will have a post about Geronimo on the "G' day. Imagine Queen Victoria seeing the Wild West show. I wonder what she thought about it.

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  2. I never knew how Buffalo Bill got his name or that he was an actor. Interesting stuff.

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    1. He was a larger than life character. Thanks, Tamara.

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  3. Hi Nat - I didn't know half this about Buffalo Bill .. and that he created the Show that then toured across to Europe .. and the Queen saw it - amazing ...

    Sounds like he was a philanthropist as well as being a showman - looking after his peoples ... Cary's works of art must be so valuable to Americans today - reflecting something of the life 170 years ago ..

    Great post to match the photo .. cheers Hilary

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  4. Thanks, Hilary. He was a character and the legends that surround him are interesting. Couldn't put them all into the post.

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  5. I am not an artist nor an art historian, but your posts are quite interesting. Your telling of the stories behind the paintings intrigue the storyteller in me.

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    1. This particular period inspires so much storytelling--brave deeds, escape from the Indians, being part of a wagon train, cowboys, pony express, bad guys--gunslingers, all part of the story. Thanks, Julie for your comment.

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  6. I'm enjoying these paintings. So many buffalo in such a short time. It's a tragedy than an animal that was so very prolific is virtually endangered today. Didn't Annie Oakley appear in his show?

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    1. She did. It must have been quite a show and different from anything else at the time.

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  7. Interesting topic, and the paintings are beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

    Hi from Nagzilla bloghopping A to Z

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    1. Thanks, nagzilla. And more to come. . .

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  8. Sad how the buffalo were just decimated almost to extinction. In that painting, doesn't it mean something when the horse's foot is raised like that?

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    1. I checked the internet and found a few answers. Urban legend says that one foot raised means the rider survived a battle, other answers were that in Western art there can be some kind of symbolism. But a great question.

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  9. He was an all rounder. Interesting that someone so bound up with the romantic myth of the Wild West was already contributing to that romanticisation in his own lifetime.

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    1. To many men I think that Buffalo Bill symbolized the adventure of the West--danger and excitement also.

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  10. I knew he was quite a showman and when the Wild West show arrived in Europe was a great success. I believe there were a huge number of people in the show too

    Good luck with he A to Z you appear to be off to a great start.

    Rob Z Tobor

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  11. Don't you think the West would have been better off without men like Cody? He certainly added to the romantic luster of the era, though.

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    1. Great question, Bob. Hard to judge. He certainly produced positive PR for his version of the West to Europe, but of course, the bottom line was money.

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