Wednesday, 13 November 2013

American Progress by John Gast (circa 1872)

This painting, ‘American Progress’ by John Gast is a representation of the so called 'new west'. It represents the modernised east taking over the more archaic west, bringing technology and education (represented by the book).
The woman in the Centre is known as Colombia, she is a common personification of the United States in poetry and fiction in the early. She is seen to be leading the 'new' America into the west. This is shown with her being followed by trains and also by the fact that she is hanging telephone cables as she goes. Manifest Destiny is shown by both Columbia's leading on the modernised America into the dark west and also the fact that she is chasing Native American Indians away. To a 19th century audience this could be read as an allegory for "out with the old, in with the new". But to modern eyes and interpretations, this could be perceived as an example of America being unwelcoming of things that will not conform, the Native Americans wanted to retain their culture and traditions so they were cast out. The east has large undulating hills and bright sunlight whereas the west has treacherous mountains and storm clouds but Colombia seems to be leading the light into the west, pushing out the darkness as she pushes out the Native people.

1 comment:

  1. This was the image dealt with in class on Tuesday Lucy - can you choose another please