The Role of the West in The West: Depictions of the West in Manifest Destiny

In the paper The role of the West in the West: Artistic Depictions of the West in  Manifest Destiny, the artist focuses on art dealing with Manifest destiny and its ideals and representations. The author begins by establishing the current trend in analysis of these pictures, for their racial views of Native Americans. The author however, claims that there are other aspects of this art to analyze, especially the way artists chose to depict the West in their images. The author states that a common thought about the West was not as a land of opportunity, but as a place of fear and death that they had been tasked to rescue by God himself. To back up this claim, the author analyses several portraits from the late 1800s for their depictions of the West. The author focuses on several common themes running through either all or several of the pieces. These include the representation of the West with harsh light, shadows and strange lighting for the painting. In addition he claims that several paintings have a clear “East and West” that are juxtaposed to show the dark and evil aspects of the West. The author uses these things to show that for the contemporary viewers, the West was a place of terror and evil, but their God-given duty to enlighten. 

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5 thoughts on “The Role of the West in The West: Depictions of the West in Manifest Destiny”

  1. This is a really interesting argument! I really like how you look at the west as a place of terror because people who moved there did have an extremely difficult time adjusting to the new life, even though government officials portrayed it as a place of great opportunity. Did you consider using propaganda created by the government in order to get people to move west? This may be a good way to contrast the images you’re using.

  2. This is an interesting lens through which to the view the westward expansion, reminds me vaguely of the article I read on Catlin and his expeditions.

  3. This is a very interesting topic and I particularly like the angle you are taking on it. Are the images you are drawing from mostly religious? If not, where do they come from?

  4. How were the people moving west portrayed? We have this vision as the settlers of the west being these rugged individualists, so are they portrayed as such in the paintings? Great argument and an interesting topic.

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