Thursday, February 23, 2017

Karl Ferdinand Wimar (1828-1862) Jemima Boone's Abduction

From Europe to the Atlantic coast of America & on to the Pacific coast during the 17C-19C, settlers moved West encountering a variety of Indigenous Peoples who had lived on the land for centuries.


Karl Ferdinand Wimar (1828-1862 a painter of the American West was also known as Charles Wimar & Carl Wimar) Boone abduction

Jemima Boone & the Callaway girls were captured by a Cherokee-Shawnee raiding party. After the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, violence increased between American Indians & settlers in Kentucky. American Indians, particularly Shawnee from north of the Ohio River, raided the Kentucky settlements, hoping to drive away the settlers, whom they regarded as trespassers. The Cherokee, led by Dragging Canoe, frequently attacked isolated settlers & hunters, convincing many to abandon Kentucky. This was part of a 20-year Cherokee resistance to pioneer settlement. By the late spring of 1776, fewer than 200 Americans remained in Kentucky, primarily at the fortified settlements of Boonesborough, Harrodsburg, & Logan's Station in the southeastern part of the state.

On July 14, 1776, a raiding party caught 3 teenage girls from Boonesborough, as they were floating in a canoe on the Kentucky River. They were Jemima, daughter of Daniel Boone, & Elizabeth & Frances, daughters of Colonel Richard Callaway. The Cherokee Hanging Maw led the raiders, 2 Cherokee & 3 Shawnee warriors. Boone organized a rescue party, as the captors hurried the girls north toward the Shawnee towns across the Ohio River. The 3rd morning, as the Indians were building a fire for breakfast, the rescuers arrived. As one Indian was shot, Jemima said, "That's Father's gun!" The Indians retreated, leaving the girls to be taken home by the settlers. The incident was portrayed in 19C literature & paintings. James Fenimore Cooper created a fictionalized version of the chase in The Last of the Mohicans (1826).

A German-born immigrant to the United States, Charles Wimar painted The Abduction of Daniel Boone's Daughter by the Indians while working in Düsseldorf with the famed history painter Emmanuel Leutze. Fascinated by the American frontier, Wimar focused during this period on images of Native American conflicts with settlers, in particular the theme of captivity & abduction, as portrayed here. This theme appeared widely in the popular literature & visual arts of the 18C & 19C, in which it was fashionable to mythologize the struggles of the frontier with exotic portrayals of the West & Native Americans. 

When he died from tuberculosis at the age of 34, he left about 50 paintings, Indians Approaching Fort Union, Flatboatmen on the Mississippi & The Abduction of Daniel Boone’s Daughter by the Indians among them. In 1843, he traveled to St. Louis, a fur-trading frontier town at the time. Between 1846 & 1850, he was apprenticed to the artist Leon de Pomarede, & accompanied him on a journey up the Mississippi, to St. Anthony Falls in Minnesota. In 1852, Wimar returned to Germany; & for 4 years, he studied with with Emmanuel Leutze & Josef Fay in Düsseldorf. After his return to the United States, Wimar took several journeys up the Mississippi River and, in 1858, up the Yellowstone River – documented in various sketchbooks.  

Wimar's paintings, like others of the time, reinforced notions of Native Americans as savage & white settlers as cultivated & divinely ordained - a notion that helped justify white colonization of the West. Inspired by Virginian Daniel Bryan's (ca. 1789–1866) 1st book, the 1813 epic poem The Mountain Muse, Wimar here depicted 3 natives seizing Jemima Boone as she picked wildflowers along the Kentucky River. Also drawing on traditional religious imagery, Wimar portrayed the captive young woman in the pose of a praying saint or martyr, further promoting the piety & innocence of Christian Europeans & the aggressiveness & barbarity of Native Americans.