August 31, 2019 – February 16, 2020
Throughout the nineteenth century as Americans pushed west toward the Pacific, they were fascinated by westward expansion in North America. Printed imagery – lithographs and engravings – played an important
role in the dissemination of knowledge and understanding about the West and its inhabitants.
Imprinting the West: Manifest Destiny, Real and Imagined, a special exhibition organized by ExhibitsUSA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, explores the potent imagery of these popular prints, produced in the decades following President Thomas Jefferson’s acquisition of 828,000 square miles from Napoleon, King of France in 1803. Known as the Louisiana Purchase it set the stage for great exploration and discovery,
migration and settlement, in addition to struggle and conflict.
Western expansion was one of the most transformational elements in American life throughout the 19th century. Convinced that God wanted the country to extend to the Pacific coast – an idea called “Manifest Destiny” – many American citizens, including painters and printmakers, moved west.
The Imprinting the West exhibition includes over 48 works of art that examine westward expansion. Prints and engravings created by artists, including George Catlin, Frederic Remington, John J. Audubon, Albert Bierstadt and many more, shaped perceptions of the West and its Native American inhabitants, some of whom were dislocated by the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Several artists documented the so-called “vanishing race,” while others portrayed the western landscape. Much of this imagery was created with an east coast or international audience in mind, and it both drew and promoted fantasies about Native Americans and the west as much as it documented reality.
Whether real or imagined, these images and the exhibition examine the birth of the West as an idea in American popular culture.
Sponsored by: Dr. Jeffrey and Mrs. Mary Lawson and Mr. Hayne and Mrs. Anna Kate Hipp