Sunday, 18 January 2015

The 'Wild West'

The paintings on this website seem to portray the stereotypical 'Wild West', or 'Old West' as this website seems to prefer, as if purposefully marketing our beliefs of what the 'Wild West' looked like. The first two images practically epitomise what the average person would believe was exactly what it was like to live in the 'Wild West'.

'Searching' (2011)

This first painting, by Kim Lockman, is a depiction of John Wayne, the famous 'Wild West' actor. This man has seemed to epitomise the American 'Wild West' for people all over the globe for his portrayals of the West. Biographer Ronald Davis wrote that "John Wayne personified for millions the nation's frontier heritage" which only begins to describe his effect on the west. This painting of him standing tall and proud in his authentic cowboy clothing with a strong horse standing smaller than him in the background seems to encourage the idea of complete power and freedom that Americans seem to love about the 'Wild West'. The original of this painting sold for $1,800, proof of the fact that people from all over the globe buy into this image of strength, power and freedom of the 'Wild West'.

'Cowboys Roping A Steer' (1897)

This second painting was painted at the time where the 'Wild West' was still a very true part of life as this year was still classed as part of the American Frontier period. It shows a group of cowboys in a positive light as they show off their skills and rope a 'steer', The painting is busy with the three cowboys and their horses almost blending together as they attempt to complete their task. If you look closely enough you can in fact see genuine markings on the horses and the steer, as well as a few cowboys in the far left background looking after some cattle. This image of farming cattle shows how plentiful the land was for these men, as in the background it can easily be seen that the cattle outnumber the men. By capturing some men chasing after a loose steer, the painter has effectively epitomised the image that people nowadays think of when asked about the 'Wild West', it paints the perfect image of freedom and masculinity, making people see power when they see cowboys.

I found it interesting to compare the two first images on this website, that has a whole category dedicated to the 'Old West', as one is from a fairly recent year and the other is from the time, yet both seem to epitomise the idea of complete freedom and power in the 'Wild West'. The one from the American Frontier period seems to portray the moment as being an every day occurrence with the men in the background herding some cattle and the men in the foreground capturing a loose steer, whereas the image of John Wayne's purpose seems to be to portray freedom and power in a way that suggests it is still attainable today.

Ronald L. Davis (2012). Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 6.

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