Picturing Indian Territory: Portraits of the Land at Became Oklahoma, 1819–1907 captures a rich visual record. Drawn, painted, and photographed by both professional and amateur non-Native artists, these works portray a distinctive landscape populated by diverse cultures, troubled by frequently changing political boundaries, and transformed by historical events that were colorful, dramatic, and sometimes tragic. This book and the exhibit it accompanies are a collaboration of the University of Oklahoma’s Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, and Western History Collections. The images included in this show span nearly nine decades and range from the scientific illustrations rendered in the journal of the English naturalist Thomas Nuttall to the easel paintings of such late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century American artists as Frederic Remington, Henry Farny, and Charles Schreyvogel. Some of the images are the product of more than one artist, and in a few cases the creator is anonymous. Other original works of art have not survived and are known to us only because they were converted for publication into wood engravings, chromolithographs, and halftones. Many of the pictures were completed by illustrators onsite in Indian Territory. Other visual reporters relied on written accounts and vivid imaginations. For better or worse, and whatever their origin or quality, these depictions of people, places, and events helped define Indian Territory for American and European audiences.
The Western History Collections is pleased to lend to the exhibit many of the primary source materials and magazine illustrations that are also included in this book. In some cases, this is the first time these works have ever been displayed or exhibited. One example is a sketch of a Caddo village in Indian Territory drawn by U.S. Army surgeon James Regale, Jr., in his diary while he served with the 10th U.S. Cavalry in 1867. The Western History Collections is also the source of a rare bird’s-eye map of Fort Reno, published in 1891; a well-preserved copy of A. P. Jackson and E. C. Cole’s Oklahoma! Politically and Topographically Described, published in 1885; and a program cover from 1884 for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.
In the pre-photography era of Indian Territory, and for many years after photography’s advent, the artists and illustrators of Indian Territory created a vivid, if sometimes fanciful, visual record for those who could not visit the region. In these artworks they have provided a lens through which current and future generations may view the past.
View a preview of this exhibition catalogue below.