The old west has been portrayed truly and falsely through art, music, and literature from
the late 1800’s and early 1900’s up till this day when illustrated through movies. Artistic
expression and communication presented the realities and illusions of the old west, some of
which attracted various people there, while keeping others at home.
Beginning with art, one of the main painters of these years (1860-1900) was
Frederick Remmington. He painted over 2,700 pictures of the frontier. One example is
“Stamped by lighting.” He also painted the Calvary charge on the southern planes.
Remmington portrayed the west truthfully. For example, He didn’t paint the Indians as
savages, but as people. Another artist of this period was Charles Russell. He portrayed the
“bad guy” of the west as a tall, dark colored man with black hair and a black hat. Another
artist of this period was Thomas Cole, who specialized in portraying the beauty and
grandeur of America. Then there was the two Peale brothers, Raphaelle and Rembrandt,
who also did many paintings of the west in their time. The beauty of the west was shown
in artistic expression, which was a gravitation for people to go west.
In the field of music, many of the musical compositions portrayed the west as a
sad lonely place, which was true. “The Streets of Lorado,” was about a man who died
very lonely. “Oh my Darling Clemintine,” was about how miners lived in the west. “I’
ve Been Working on the Railroad was what it was like to be a railroad worker, which was
very hard, and long work.
Similar to music, the literature of Mark Twain was about how miserable life in the
west was. One piece written by Twain was called “Roughing it.” Twain's writing is also his
place where realism and place of language, memorable characters, and hatred of hypocrisy and
oppression find an outlet. Brett Harte wrote “The outcast of Poker Flat.” (1869) He was
best known for his works of local color set in the west. A popular show back then, was
Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show.
All in all, the myths of the west are part of what makes the whole image more
interesting. But knowing the difference between the truths and the myths is important.
That’s why art, music, and literature are so significant.