Castle Hill, Sitka, Alaska, USA
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These five unpublished drawings (See B.96.17, B.96.18, B.96.19, and B.96.20) document areas on the Canadian River of north Texas following the Civil War. A landscape artist, portraitist, and lithographer, Vincent Colyer was elected in 1849 to the National Academy of Design, New York. He exhibited his work in New York and at the Boston Athenaeum, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, and the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore. Following the Civil War, during which time he painted portraits and attended the sick and wounded, Colyer settled in Connecticut in 1866. In 1869, he served as an Indian commissioner, hired by the United States government to travel to the various Native American agencies of north Texas, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Alaska, and what is now Oklahoma. It was at this time that Colyer documented the terrain and flora of north Texas.
Colyer’s topographical renderings of this area may have assisted the U.S. Army’s operations on the Southern Plains during the Indian Wars. His artistic activities in Texas also coincide with the government’s effort to investigate western lands in a series of surveys from 1867 to 1879 in order to encourage settlement, promote tourism, and assess natural resources. His work, then, relates to that of such other artist-explorers as Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902), who made his first government expedition west in 1859, and Thomas Moran (1837–1926), who headed west two years after Colyer.
Book excerpt: David B. Warren, Michael K. Brown, Elizabeth Ann Coleman, and Emily Ballew Neff. American Decorative Arts and Paintings in the Bayou Bend Collection. Houston: Princeton Univ. Press, 1998.
Descriptive Medium: Watercolor on paper