John Mix Stanley1814 - 1872
Born: 1814, Canandaigua, New York
Died: 1872, Detroit, Michigan
John Mix Stanley is one of the most accomplished Western artists of the nineteenth century, yet few of his works remain due to numerous fires that destroyed most of his collections. After growing up in New York and learning to paint in Detroit, Stanley set up a studio at Fort Gibson in present-day Oklahoma in 1842 in order to paint the Indians and frontiersmen. He undertook several expeditions with the military, such as traveling with Colonel Stephen Kearney to New Mexico and California and with General Isaac I. Stevens to explore a railroad route from Minnesota to Puget Sound. Stanley also traveled along the Pacific Coast and to Hawaii painting portraits of native inhabitants.
Inspired by George Catlin's Indian Gallery, which achieved fame in the 1830s, Stanley spent several years touring his Indian portraits in eastern cities, such as New York City, Troy, Albany, New Haven, Hartford, and Washington, D.C. His collection of 150 paintings was destroyed in a fire at the Smithsonian in 1865 after Congress refused to purchase them. Another fire at P.T. Barnum's American Museum in New York destroyed more of his work.
Stanley was one of the first Western artists to use a daguerreotype camera to document the Indians and the landscape. He used the photographs as well as sketches to create his final painted compositions back in the studio. In addition to his paintings, Stanley also created two huge panoramas based on his sketches and photographs, one of which focused on life in the West and took two hours to view while the other concentrated on the Civil War. The panoramas toured around eastern cities as well, but nothing remains from either work. During the last years of his life, Stanley spent time in the studio painting and arranging for chomolithographs of his work.