Cover Art Description:
As the essays in this special issue illustrate, few events influenced the course of American history quite like the rush for gold in the American West. Whether it was California in 1848–1849, Colorado and Nevada in 1859, Idaho and Montana in the early 1860s, or Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, or South Dakota thereafter, the quest for the yellow metal shaped and accelerated the course of settlement, immigration, transportation, wealth accumulation, environmental change, social displacement, and national perception. Indeed, the era was so dramatically transforming that contemporary artists depicted it allegorically at the time and nostalgically soon afterward. Two cases in point are the works of E. Hall Martin (1818–1851) and Ernest Narjot (1826–1898).
Martin, a portrait painter from Cincinnati, arrived in San Francisco in 1849. Poor health inhibited his establishing himself as an artist, but by 1850 he had moved to Sacramento where he began work on an allegorical trilogy of paintings, only two of which survive. What apparently was the first of these, The Prospector (1850, oil on canvas, 36" x 25"), is reproduced on the front cover courtesy Mr. and Mrs. A. R. Phillips, Jr. It was possibly the first archetypal depiction of a forty-niner in American art.
By 1882, when Ernest Narjot painted Miners: A Moment at Rest (Gold Rush Camp) (oil on canvas, 40" x 55 1/2"), genre painters had joined novelists, songwriters, playwrights, and others in representing the gold rush nostalgically. The painting, reproduced on the back cover courtesy the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, Los Angeles, depicts a group of virtuous miners at leisure. Narjot, a Frenchman, joined the rush to California in 1849 and later established himself as a San Francisco painter.
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