The Surging, Thundering Herd: Vintage Bison engravings, 1758-1910 is comprised of early artworks, drawn from the Lee Silliman Print Collection. The exhibit features an array of 51 original engravings depicting the iconic mammal of the American frontier West—the buffalo.
The engravings, spanning 152 years of art history, were created by European artists who never saw the animal, and by artists who witnessed these massive beasts in the wild before their near extinction in the 1880s. The media include early copper plate engravings, wood engravings, chromolithographs, and early 1900s color lithographic postcards. Some images are beautifully hand-tinted. Many images were drawn from poplar 19th century American periodicals, such as Harper’s Weekly and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, as well as from other lesser known American and European publications. The prints are annotated with historical commentary. Prominent frontier painters whose derivative prints are featured in the exhibit include Frederic Remington, George Catlin, and Karl Bodmer.
Many aspects of the bison story are illuminated in this exhibit: the animal in its wild state amongst its natural enemies; techniques for hunting the bison by Native Americans and whites; the centrality of buffalo in Native American culture; and the nearly total extermination of the bison in the late 1800s. Images and commentary unite to paint the story.