The artist at the center of Charles Deas and 1840s America had quite a story. Charles Deas was from a once-prominent family in Philadelphia; after studying art in New York, he headed out west to record the previously undocumented people and places in the area. And then, after producing a body of incredibly accomplished work on the Indians and the wilderness where they lived, he was declared insane and committed to the Bloomingdale Asylum at the ripe old age of 29. He was still institutionalized at Bloomingdale when he died nineteen years later. (Deas's depictions of Indian braves as either beefcake studs or dreamy twinks give us more than a hint at what his "mental" problem was.) This major scholarly undertaking was put together by the world's foremost Deas scholar, Carol Clark, and it was a worthy salute to someone who helped invent the genre of Western art, an approach that is still going strong a century and a half later.

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