Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way (mural study, U.S. Capitol)

Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way (mural study, U.S. Capitol)

This dramatic image of westward expansion is a study for a mural in the United States Capitol, one of the most ambitious statements of cultural nationalism during the mid-nineteenth century. Leutze combined pioneer men and women, mountain guides, wagons, and mules to suggest a divinely ordained pilgrimage to the Promised Land of the western frontier. In the border, medallion portraits of explorers Captain William Clark and Daniel Boone flank a vista of the San Francisco Bay--the ultimate western destination. Above, a bald eagle holds a scroll on which is lettered "Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way"--while Native Americans escape in a maze of winding plant tendrils.

Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (1816 - 1868)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Sara Carr Upton
1861
oil on canvas
© Smithsonian American Art Museum


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