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Seth Eastman — View of Table Rock on Kelly’s Island – Lake Erie. Oct 10, 1850.

View of Table Rock on Kelly’s Island – Lake Erie. Oct 10, 1850. View of Table Rock on Kelly’s Island – Lake Erie. Oct 10, 1850.

Works Of
Seth Eastman

Seth Eastman - Prints from his sketchbook
View of Table Rock on Kelly’s Island – Lake Erie. Oct 10, 1850.
Oct 10, 1850
Dimensions:  h: 6 1/8" x w: 10 1/8"

Between 1848 and 1849 Seth Eastman made a journey down the Mississippi and through Texas, recording the scenes which caught his eye in incredibly delicate and atmospheric sketches. The vast majority of these exquisite drawings are now in the collection of the Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute of San Antonio and thus the present offering provides a rare opportunity to acquire rare works from Eastman’s sketchbook.

Seth Eastman was born in Brunswick, Maine, in 1808, and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1829. He was assigned to the First Infantry Division and spent the majority of his military career at Fort Snelling, one of the most visited places on the western frontier. His talents extended beyond the military life, however, to that of painting and drawing, and even in his own time Eastman was a highly acclaimed artist. He created some of the most memorable images of the frontier, its inhabitants and wildlife.

In 1848, the army gave Eastman a new assignment and at the age of forty he was ordered to Texas to aid in protecting the frontier against Native American attack and in establishing a line of frontier forts. For the first time since Texas was annexed, the United States government turned its attentions to this sparsely settled state and recognition was given to the fact that a state wide survey of boundaries was desperately needed. The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo with Mexico required an official survey of the boundary. Moreover, emigrants to the west were urged to take the Texas route, but there were no established roads to follow and travelers as well as Texans demanded the protection of the United States Army. Eastmanwas one of a great number of soldiers, scouts, surveyors, and engineers assigned to Texas.

In September, 1848, Eastman left Fort Snelling and started down the Mississippi River, pencil and sketchbook in hand. He left his art career in the capable hands of his wife, Mary, and his influential friend, Henry S. Sibley, delegate to Congress from Minnesota. His absence in the interior of Texas would remove him from the sphere in which he was beginning to be recognized as the foremost Indian painter of his day.

The Mississippi River views in Eastman's sketchbook begin fourteen miles above Sainte Genevieve on the Missouri bank and end at the Southwest Pass below New Orleans. Eastman's river is serenely placid, often desolate and gloomy, and always lovely and remote. Since Eastman's journey the Mississippi has changed its course many times, and his drawings are the only record of how the river and its hamlets once looked.

Eastman's tour of duty took him through San Antonio and on to Fredericksburg where he completed two more of the spectacular drawings shown. As an artist, Eastman was primarily concerned with Indian life. Yet in Texas the trees and the hills held his interest, the Indian appearing only occasionally as a faint figure in the background. Early in December 1848 Eastman and his soldiers started into the "Comanche" country of scrubby hills and clear creeks to take command of a frontier post near Fredericksburg, which at that time was known as "Camp Houston." Shortly thereafter it was named "Fort Martin Scott," in honor of an officer by that name who was killed in the war with Mexico. Fredericksburg had been established only two years before, deep in the Comanche country, where only the colonists of the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas dared to venture.

In March, 1849, Eastman was ordered to the Leona River, where he was to establish and take command of another frontier post, later known as "Fort Inge," now the town of Uvalde. His route was a return to San Antonio, and from there he followed the road west through D'Hanis, Vandenburg, Quihi, and Castroville to the Leona River. From May 7 to July 16 Eastman sketched the Leona and Frio Rivers.

In September 1849 Eastman was granted a leave of absence and left Texas for Washington, D.C. Early in 1850 he was given the coveted assignment of illustrating Schoolcraft's report: Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States. However, Seth Eastman created some of the most memorable images of the frontier, and in particular Texas, in his amazing sketchbook and can be considered as one of the premier artists of the American West.

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