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Buffalo on the Platte River

19th century
49.2 cm x 71.8 cm (19 3/8 in. x 28 1/4 in.)

Worthington Whittredge (near Springfield, Ohio, 1820 - 1910, Summit, New Jersey) Primary

Object Type: painting
Artist Nationality: North America, American
Medium and Support: Oil on board
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of C.R. Smith, 1985
Accession Number: 1985.81

Worthington Whittredge created this work after a survey expedition to the West. The plains landscape deeply affected the artist: “Whoever crossed the plains at that period…could hardly fail to be impressed with its vastness and silence.”

This intimate painting depicts a herd of buffalo along the banks of Nebraska’s Platte River. Enabling a heightened sense of the vastness he had described, the artist kept the buffalo at a distance, a small, quiet presence. And yet, the ominous clouds could be taken as tacit symbols of the encroaching migration of white settlers to the region—a development that was accelerated by the First Transcontinental Railroad built along the Platte River. Just a decade after this work was painted, those traveling west by train would no longer witness Whittredge’s vision, as westward expansion and overhunting caused the near eradication of the American bison.

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