Toward the Horizon Essay

Submitted By jrae1221
Words: 860
Pages: 4

Towards the Horizon In the 1840s many Americans chose to move westward. In doing so, Americans would claim the land with little regard for the natives who called it home. This land was America’s God given right. A great expanse of untouched land patiently awaiting it’s potential to be fulfilled by settlement, construction, progress, and by the American dream. Americans moving westward had a spirit of exploration and discovery. This vast beauty was opening up with every mile travelled westward. It gave a sense of awe and a feeling that any piece could be had by simply staking claim and building ones dream upon it. This belief and awe romanticized reality as it was, and gave way to an idea just as romantic, manifest destiny. Unlike Europe, America did not have a rich history defined and shaped by the human form. American’s at this time longed to break free from Europe, and become American. To break free, they had to create a new history that did not look across the ocean, but towards the horizon. The far reaching landscape would become America’s history. American artists at this time would perpetuate this idea. Some artists would share the dream of expansion, while others hoped to preserve the beauty of the land and avoid the mistakes of Europe’s past. These artists “would help formulate justifications for confiscating the land from its current inhabitants while, at the same time, celebrating the humanity of indigenous peoples and the value of their cultural practices.” (Framing America) Artists like Emanuel Leutze and George Caleb Bingham painted images of Daniel Boone leading settlers like Moses leading the Isrealites. Images referencing biblical characters, as religious propaganda could eliminate any uncertainty settlers might have regarding their God given right to the land. In Emanuel Leutze’s Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way, Daniel Boone is leading a large group of settlers. He is pointing the way, leading them to their destiny, with guns wielded. The title of this work was taken from a poem by an Irish idealist philosopher, Bishop George Berkeley. Berkeley sought to convert American Indians to Christianity. Daniel Leutze’s painting propagandized the widely held belief of European Americans that it was their Christian duty and inherent right to expand their territory and influence. The only place in this work the depicts American Indians are the images decoratively framing the piece. They are swept to the peripheral of the painting as an unimportant part, a small obstacle in the destiny of American settlers.(Framing America) John Gast’s painting American Progress idealized the idea of American expansion westward. The left side of the painting is dark, the Native Americans and buffalo look to be running away from the approaching settlers. The settlers are bringing with them, industry, technology, and light. The most prominent image in the painting is the woman floating above the scene. She is bringing with her freedom and democracy. She also brings advancements like the telegraph, as she is unraveling the wire through the countryside. She bears formal education, as well, which is symbolized by the book she carries in her hand. This promotes the idea that European Americans are bringing their superior civilization and way of life to the uncivilized indigenous people. This image further solidified the idea of manifest destiny into an evolving American culture. (Your Proposal is Acceptable) Not all artists aimed to promote