The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993 Page: 130
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
In the foreword to this catalogue, Elizabeth Broun, director of the Smithso-
nian's National Collection of American Art, which sponsored not only the ex-
hibition upon which this catalogue is based but the catalogue itself, declares its
message "profound," even if she does say so herself. It apparently is "pro-
found" because the "message" is a tale of "hidden agendas" and capitalist con-
spiracies between artists and white Americans from George Catlin to George
DeForest Brush. She fails to note, however, that the groundwork for the ex-
hibition was laid for William Truettner, orchestrator of The West as America, by
his participation as advisor to this reviewer's 1986 PBS series The West of the
Imagination, which was broader in scope and saner in interpretation. Truettner
has to live with this and much more. His team of scholars simplistically, if not
anachronistically in view of current events in the former USSR, consistently es-
pouses not only conspiracy theory but an outmoded Marxist interpretation.
This makes a catalogue full of beautiful western art predictable and hence dull,
except for the wild speculations of the team's "star," dazzling newcomer Alex
Nemerov's interpretation of Remington's Fzght for the Waterhole as time run-
ning out for capitalism in 1903 is amusing, especially since Remington's prin-
cipal lament was for the good old pre-industrial days of "the men with the bark
on." Likewise Nemerov's description of Charles M. Russell's Carson's Men as an-
gels with halos and "good ole Kit" as Christ is inspiring if a bit confusing. His
anti-white-Anglo-Saxon view of N. C. Wyeth's Viking as a cowboy in The Fzrst
Cargo (191 o) is not so charmingly racist. His interpretation of Charles Schrey-
vogel's Defending the Stockade (ca. 1905) has those villainous Anglo-Saxons strug-
gling desperately to keep out European immigrants in Hoboken. It reminds
one of a script for an early New Jersey Western three-reeler. Nemerov's neglect
of the Hispanics in Remington's Dash for the Tzmber (1889) is as funny as his ne-
glect of all of Remington's many other paintings of Hispanics. His imagina-
tive "reading" of [Enger] Irving Couses' The Captive (1892) is replete with a
seventeen-year-old Bewly girl captive, a frustrated Cayuse Indian would-be
rapist (who actually returned her to white civilization), lots of phallic bows and
arrows, and an open tent flap that Nemerov sees as a clue to Bewly's sexual
identity. Nemerov's Inclusion of Raphael's St. Michael killing not the devil
but-a moose!-in George de Forest Brush's The Moose Chase (1888) is inspired
but not as inspired as his portrayal of 300-pound-plus Frederic Remington as
the skinny explorer Radisson because they both have names that begin with
"R," and Radisson, standing in a canoe, looks like-what else?-an "R." As a
would-be art historian, Yale-trained Nemerov is both a slave to Connecticut
Wesleyan's Richard Slotkin and a parody of a confused Rube Goldberg. Except
for Julie Schimmel's strange interpretation of a thirst-maddened, starving
horse tethered to a Crow burial platform just short of water as a coded ad for a
western resort, and perhaps Patricia Hills's deft inclusion of Domencio Tojetti's
overripe classical painting, Progress of America, as a piece of western art, Neme-
rov is the whole show.
One should, however, name the rest of Truettner's team. Patricia Hills writes
on views of progress in scenes of westward expansion; Julie Schimmel gives her
standard piece on "Inventing the Indian," and a very fine one it is too; Eliza-
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993, periodical, 1993; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/m1/156/: accessed October 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.