Sunday, April 24, 2016

Social Effects of Colonization and the Fur Trade in The Americas

There have been many misrepresentations of the American Indian since the European’s “discovery” of them. The American landscape as well as Native American people and culture became a popular subject for art in North America, and in Europe due to Colonization and the Fur Trade. This exhibit seeks to show the social tensions between the Europeans and Native Americans during the Fur Trade. This will also work as a window to expose some of the complications of the relationships between the two people groups and general social effects of the overlapping of cultures. There was a lot of violence, but also lots of business transactions, as well as some mixing of cultures through trade and marriages. The Native Americans were heavily effected by colonization and the Fur Trade. Their cultures and communities will forever be impacted from these events. 
Most depictions of Native Americans were painted by motivation of the ideas of Romanticism. There was usually a tension between seeing less developed countries as  a more natural environment, therefore better, but also seeing non-europeans as “less than.” 

George Caleb Bingham, Fur Traders Descending the Missouri, 1845, American, Oil on Canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 29 x 36 1/2 in., 33.61

This painting represents the mixture of the Native American and European Cultures. The original title of this painting was French-Trader, Half-Breed Son, putting emphasis on the young male figure in the middle of the painting. The title was changed due to the potential offensive nature of the saying. The clothing on the two figures is a key to the mixing of the two cultures. The man and boy both have european patterned shirts, that have a loose fit similar to the Native styles. Both have pants that appear to be what the Natives would of been wearing. The mixture of items in this scene point to the mixture of cultures. The boy has a gun, as well as a small Native American pouch. Guns were used for hunting, but this could also be pointing to the idea of the occurrence of violence that erupted from the Fur Trade. 

George Caleb Bingham, Portrait of Leonidas Wetmore, 1839-1840, American , Oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 60 1/8 x 40 1/8th in.

This painting shows the impact on clothing trends due to the interaction between Europeans and Native Americans. The figure’s outfit is loosely the shape of a typical male european outfit in 1840, but the style, material, and patterns are Native American. This was part of the colonization and exploitation of goods that was common during this time. Trading of goods was the most common way that Natives and Europeans interacted. This also depicts the mixing of culture. The man has a european undershirt on and is holding a gun, but is wearing Native outer garments and shoes. The two cultures were involved with each other, this sends a similar message as the mixed boy in Bingham’s “Fur Trader’s Descending the Missouri.”

John Quincy Adams Ward, Study for Treaty with Native Americans, 1860, Graphite on paper, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2 13/16 x 4 3/8 in, 1985.351.12 recto

This piece shows how Europeans viewed the American Indians in contrast to the Europeans. Europeans had a view that any nonwhite was inferior. This caused lots of problems when colonization started happening in North and South America because they saw the Natives as inferior humans. The Europeans were making statements of dominance. Here you see the Europeans standing up with a stature of dominance and permanence, while the natives are hunched over with a posture of fluid movement and inferiority. The marks from the graphite are more bold for the Europeans, and light strokes for the Natives. 

Unknown -- Navajo, Sand Painting on Sheep Hide, Catalog of Art Museum Image Online, 1875-1925, 123.8 x 89 cm

This is a visual depiction of an item that would of been traded in the later part of the Fur Trade. Sheep skin was not as common as raccoon fur, but it was still traded in the late 1800’s. Fur Traders would hunt or obtain fur or other animal products such as sheep skin from other methods, and send it back to Europe. There was a huge shift in European fashion due to all the fur being traded. Fur on clothing became a fad in Europe as well as a way to make a statement of economic status since fur was expensive. This style started to change, which put a huge dent in the fur trading industry, putting lots of American Indian communities in poverty. 

F. Luis Mora, Navajo Family, 1928, The Metropolitan Museum of Art , 9 15/16 x 7 11/16 in., 1979.4911

This is in conversation particularly with Bingham’s Portrait of Leonidas Wetmore. It is the same idea but flipped. This shows a Navajo family in attire that looks like it is European in form, but the material and patterns look Native. This is a very good visual representation of how the Fur Trade changed things like clothing trends. Colonization brought the European standard of dress to the America’s, and would mix with whatever local culture there was, as well as send back Native pieces to Europe to be circulated there as well as in the colonies.

Thomas Crawford, Mexican Girl Dying, 1846-1848, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 20 1/4 x 54 1/2 x 19 1/2 in., 97.13.2a-e

This represents both how colonization effected the Native people and also how the Natives were viewed. During colonization lots of small wars broke out as well as lots of violence between the Europeans and Natives. This visually tells of the death that came about due to the violence, as well as the over sexualization of non-europeans. The placement of the figures hands draws the eyes to focus on her sexual organs. Her posture also shows one of defeat, something that the Europeans were trying to implement -- their power and dominance over the Natives. 

William de la Montagne, Fur Traders on the Missouri Attacked by Indians, 1868, Catalog of Art Museum Image Online

The print shows the violence that was brought by the Fur Trade. There was violence from both sides, but this particular print shows the attack on fur traders by a group of Natives. Interaction between the Europeans and Natives ranged from peaceful trades, to violent skirmishes. The European figures express the sheer terror of being ambushed by the Natives. This scene also shows the mass amounts of fur that were being traded during the 1800s. 

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