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John Mix Stanley – Virtual Tour

John Mix Stanley

John Mix Stanley – Virtual Tour

John Mix Stanley (1814 – 1872) started painting signs and portraits as a young man. Then, in 1842 he traveled to the American West to paint Native American life.

During the Mexican–American War, he joined an expedition to California and painted scenes from the campaign and the Oregon Territory.

Stanley continued to travel and paint in the West. He never recovered his expenses for a decade of intensive work and travel.

His portrayal of the American West is valued, and national, and numerous regional museums hold his few surviving works.

Virtual Tour of John Mix Stanley 

Highlights Tour of John Mix Stanley 

Buffalo Hunt on the Southwestern Prairies

“Buffalo Hunt on the Southwestern Prairies” by John Mix Stanley depicts the American West and the Native American life in a highly naturalistic depiction.

Stanley was an artist-explorer, a painter of landscapes, and Native American portraits, and tribal life.

Unfortunately, over 200 of Stanley’s paintings, which were being held at the Smithsonian, were lost in an 1865 fire. This significant loss of most of his works makes this portrayal of the American West highly valued.

This painting is one of his few surviving works, reflecting his sympathy and skills in depicting American Indian traditions. Museum:  Smithsonian American Art Museum

Oregon City on the Willamette River

“Oregon City on the Willamette River” by John Mix Stanley was painted between 1850-1852 and depicts the Oregon Territory’s capital from its establishment in 1848 until 1851. The city rivaled Portland for early supremacy in the area.

Oregon City is located on the Willamette River near the southern limits of the Portland metropolitan area. Established in 1829 by the Hudson’s Bay Company, it became the first U.S. city west of the Rocky Mountains to be incorporated in 1844.

In 1847 Stanley embarked on his journey to the newly formed Oregon Territory. He conceived his “Oregon City on the Willamette River” composition during this trip, and it has become the only landscape of this historic town.

Stanley composed this painting following two trips to the late 1840s to sketch local Indians and scenery. This painting was completed a few years later. It became iconic for the development and expansion of the frontier. Museum: Amon Carter Museum of American Art

John Mix Stanley, Self-portrait

John Mix Stanley was born in Canandaigua, New York, to Seth and Sally Stanley. However, he was orphaned at the age of 12. At age 14, Stanley was`apprenticed to a coach maker.

He taught himself painting skills, and at the age of 20, moved to Detroit, the largest city in the Michigan Territory, where he became an itinerant painter of signs and portraits.

In 1842, Stanley went to the American Southwest expressly to paint Native Americans. In Indian Territory, present-day Oklahoma, he went to the council at Tahlequah called by the Cherokee chief John Ross and the Republic of Texas.

Stanley spent four weeks there and worked intensely through the next three months to complete his numerous paintings of individuals and tribal groups.

In early 1846 in Cincinnati, Ohio, he exhibited a gallery of Indians’ paintings, which received favorable reviews. This was the start of Stanley’s interest, and sympathies were with the American Indians. 

  • Title:                 John Mix Stanley, Self-portrait
  • Artist:                John Mix Stanley
  • Year:                 1860
  • Medium:           Oil on canvas

John Mix Stanley

John Mix Stanley

A Virtual Tour of American Artists You Should Know

John Mix Stanley


“Art is unquestionably one of the purest and highest elements in human happiness. It trains the mind through the eye and the eye through the mind. As the sun colors flowers, so does art color life.”
– John Lubbock


Photo Credit: 1) John Mix Stanley, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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