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The Land of the Free

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The Land of the Free

circa 1900
20th century
94.6 cm x 80 cm (37 1/4 in. x 31 1/2 in.)

William Gilbert Gaul (Jersey City, New Jersey, 1855 - 1919, New York City) Primary

Object Type: painting
Artist Nationality: North America, American
Medium and Support: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of C.R. Smith, 1976
Accession Number: G1976.21.12

While depictions of Native American men standing alone in majestic landscapes are common in American painting of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, solitary renderings of women in such environments are rare. This Sioux woman is wrapped in a Navajo blanket and perched atop a craggy valley rendered in thick oil impasto. The Sioux often chose high places—mountain peaks, as here—to bury their dead, and women mourned alone. The work’s title borrows from the lyrics of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” used by the U.S. military during this time before it became the national anthem in 1931. William Gilbert Gaul, familiar with tribal funerary traditions from his experiences with the Sioux, may have set this twilight scene at its “last gleaming” to evoke the destruction done by U.S. forces against Native American communities at the turn of the century.

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