Not many people know this, but paintings from the wild west period are some of the most beautiful and underrated works of art that you will ever see. This is partly due to the incredible beauty of the American landscape itself, but more importantly, it is due to the great awe it inspired in those eyes that viewed these places for the first time.
The sheer scale and scope of the Great American Western plateaus were like nothing the European settlers had ever seen before. The epic landscapes and sprawling vistas, alongside the curious plant and wildlife, made for as exciting an adventure the human story has ever known.
As a result, almost all the painters on this list have dozens of paintings to showcase. The following is just an example of each artist’s work; you will have to delve into their collections to decide your favorites.
The Golden Hour – Thomas Moran
Thomas Moran’s paintings of the Great American West are arguably the most breathtaking ever created. His exquisite use of watercolor adds such a quality of realism to his work that they are a worthy decoration for any wall. As proof of this, one even hangs proudly on the White House of the president of the United States.
His painting titled “The Golden Hour” is just one of the dozens of paintings that supremely showcase the great artist’s skill. It portrays the stunning scenery of the towering cliffs of the Green River at sunset in Southern Wyoming.
The magical intensity of the fiery sunsetting sky engulfs the entire painting, accompanied by the magnificent mountain peaks and tranquil river, resulting in a painting of majestic and epic proportions. With that being said, The Golden Hour isn’t even considered one of Moran’s significant works. You will have to go through his collection to decide your favorite for yourself.
The Outlier – Frederic Remington
Many consider Frederic Remington to be the leading painter and illustrator on the subject of the American Old West. This is partly because Remington lived the Old West life instead of just painting it. His works include illustrations of cowboys, the U.S cavalry, and somewhat more controversially, the American Indian.
His painting titled “The Outlier” is one such painting. It powerfully depicts a lone Indian riding on a white steed over grassy plains as the sun sets behind him and dusk approaches. The painting has a poetic quality and is one of the last Remington painted before he died.
What is somewhat different about this painting, in particular, compared to others on the list, is that Remington went for an impressionist style, similar to that of Monet’s work.
Smoke of a .45 – Charles Marion Russell
If action is more your thing and your idea of the Wild West, then Charles M. Russell’s active wild west paintings are the one for you. Russell, just like Remington, lived the Wild West life and chronicled it in his paintings. Unlike Remington, though, Russell settled permanently in the West and embraced the Wild West lifestyle.
His painting titled “Smoke of a .45” is a prime example of both Russell’s work and the raw lawlessness that epitomized the West. The painting portrays the scene of a wild and chaotic gunfight on the street of a pioneer town.
There is no straightforward telling of who the good guys and bad guys are in the scene, but the whiskey bottles and poker cards scattered across the ground are suggested to be the cause of the shootout. If you’re a fan of cowboy movies and want a painting of a similar fashion, then look no further than Charles M. Russell.
Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains – Albert Bierstadt
Albert Bierstadt was a German-American painter who specialized in capturing the total serenity of the landscapes of the West on canvas. He is even said to have volunteered for several journeys traveling across the western expanse to paint the scenery.
“Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains” is just one of Bierstadt’s stunning depictions of the mountain ranges of California. The painting oozes the awe and inspiration that Bierstadt must have felt while sketching the scene.
The epic scale of the rolling mountains reaching their way down to the calm waters below, while the rays of the sunshine defiantly through a cloudy sky, the artwork showcases all the beauty of the West. It is no wonder that American pioneers saw America and the more excellent West as indeed God’s country.
Tipis – George Catlin
George Catlin was a real-life adventurer and an artist and traveled throughout the West five times during the 1830s. The majority of his artwork depicted the lives and activities of the native American peoples living in the West.
His painting, entitled “Tipis,” is one such painting. It beautifully portrays a scene of the large tribe known as the Sioux Indians huddled together in a circle while their chief holds a war council. The tipis they lived in, and their totems can also be seen in the background.
Catlin’s paintings showcase an intimate look into one of the lesser portrayed peoples of the Wild West period. The cowboy may be the main image one thinks of the West, but the proud Indian is just as important a figure in the Great American Wild West.
The Bottom Line
So, the next time you are thinking of purchasing a painting to add some character to your home, there is truly no better choice than a “Wild West” painting. It will fill you with inspiration every time you look at it and remind you of just how far humankind has come.