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TAIT, A.F. (1819-1905), The Pursuit (New York: Currier & Ives, 1856)

TAIT, A.F. (1819-1905), The Pursuit (New York: Currier & Ives, 1856)


TAIT, A.F. (1819-1905), The Pursuit (New York: Currier & Ives, 1856)



20 ½ x 27 inches visible, 33 x 40 inches framed. Hand-colored lithograph. Plate legend on bottom margin bearing title (toning consistent with age).

This superb hand-colored lithograph of A. F. Tait’s “The Pursuit” opens in medias res with a captivating scene of a frontiersman on horseback galloping after a Native American warrior, also on horseback, across a vast prairie. The frontiersman is seen atop his sprinting horse with his arm outstretched in the act of firing his gun at the Native American riding ahead of him. The fleeing Native American appears to have been shot and is in the middle of falling off his horse, with a long spear still clutched in hand. In the background are more horseback figures, apparently engaged in a similar pursuit. An overall sense of violence and suspense permeates the scene, as can be gleaned from the expressions and body language of both the human figures and their accompanying horses.

The imagined action here is imbued with all the immediacy and urgency of a real scene due to the artist’s meticulous rendering of every detail. Particularly impressive are the ways motion and speed are conveyed, from the visibly tense musculature and billowing tails of the horses in flight, to the flapping fringes and coattails of the frontiersman, to the subtle effects of light and wind on the grass. The highlights of red and orange that pop out against the otherwise blue and white setting also serve to enhance the striking intensity of the moment. Furthermore, the masterful use of perspective evokes powerfully the seemingly infinite expanses of prairie and sky.

This lithograph,drawn from an 1855 oil painting by the notable genre painter Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait,  was one of a number of Western scenes published by Currier & Ives in the mid to late nineteenth century, a period of Westward expansion when the American public had a great appetite for representations of Western adventure, particularly the challenges faced by trailblazing pioneers as they forged their way through vast, unknown terrains. The present composition features one of the most exciting subjects at the time--armed conflicts with Native Americans, who often resisted violently against the encroachment on their lands. The scene here presents a loose narrative of that struggle which so defined the Westward experience that loomed large in the 19th-century American imagination.

You are warmly invited to visit our gallery at 1016 Madison Avenue in New York City to view this work whenever it might be convenient.

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