In the aftermath of the Civil War, one of the greatest migrations in the history of mankind began. And while this migration and settlement only lasted for some 35 years, it had a long lasting and profound influence on American culture. It inspired an art movement that continues to grow both in popularity and number of artist and works.
Why American Art?
Traditionally, European art and art movements dominated the American art market. However, an increasing number of people began looking to works by American artists for their collections, especially since the turn of the century. American art became prominent for a number of reasons.
First, the proliferation of illustrated magazines introduced a large number of artists to millions of readers. Second, American art became easily accessible. It became fashionable to have art in the home as opposed to being available only in museums.
Why Western Art?
Western art, in its beginnings, showed both the romantic and the realistic. It conveyed the romance of adventure. It took a nostalgic look into the past.
Today, Western art encompasses a large number of artists, subjects, and media. It includes the artist who actually lived in "The Untamed West" as well as contemporary artists. It includes "Regionalist" who live in the West or Southwest and the "cowboy artists" that still live the life, however more modern, of the traditional cowboy and horseman. Western art also includes a number of subjects: cowboys, Indians, traders, landscapes, "The Frontier," horses, wildlife, homesteaders, Western women and children, railroads, rangers and the list continues. Paintings, drawings, prints, bronze sculptures, wood carvings, as well as others in traditional and nontraditional materials are examples of Western art media.
In addition to the variety in subject matter, style and media, Western art offers several other benefits to collectors:
- It has historical value: it's a record and reminder of American history.
- It is unique to America and our heritage.
- Western art conveys the wholesomeness and qualities of "The American Dream."
- It provides aesthetic beauty: there is much talent and beauty in the depiction of Western landscapes, horses, Indians, and all other areas of life in the American West.
Two Periods of Western Art
Scholars generally conclude that Western art is divided into two main periods: before and after 1950. The difference in the periods is due to the rapid and extensive changes of the West. Essentially, the artists of the different periods saw different scenes.
These early Western artists captured the scenes of the original West. Many of them lived it. They recorded the scenery and events that they saw and knew. Because some of the artists actually witnessed some of these famous events, these works have great historical value. Furthermore, the supply of such art is limited. And, with the growing demand, prices are increasing.
Many 19th Century and early 20th Century artists started the genre called Western art. Some of the more well known artists of this period were Thomas Moran, Charles M. Russell and Frederic Remington.
Contemporary Western Art Since 1950
Although Western art after 1950 does not depict eye witness accounts of famous Indian raids or other historical events, it still holds high standards of quality and beauty. Landscapes may be the same landscapes of the modern American West. Beyond the city limits, you can still find breathtaking beauty in the landscapes, mountains, and cliffs of the West. Many scenes of the cowboy, cattle herd and horse are taken from the life of the modern rancher.
Contemporary Western art is continuing to increase in popularity and price. Because it is newer and less limited than work prior to 1950, contemporary Western art may also be less expensive, considerably less in some cases. This could be a good incentive for the new collector or a collector with a limited budget. Contemporary Western art can be an excellent choice for the one time buyer or the collector. You may want to consider it as the focus for your collection.
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