American Indian historical paintings, also known as Native American historical art, is the visual art of the native inhabitants of the Americas, often set during the 18th-20th century. These paintings can feature historically significant moments for various Native American tribes. The events may include battle scenes or various scenes featuring Native Indians interactions with settlers. Indian Historical paintings also include any painting with Native Americans included as the subject of the art piece.
The history of Native Americans since the settlement period of modern United States starting in the 17th century is largely one of tragedy, betrayal, and loss. However, within this elaborate and complex narrative, countless moments of beauty, bravery, and honor survive the test of time. Contemporary artists who create American Indian historical paintings may choose to capture a battle scene with any number of subjects in any number of settings and times. The American Indian Wars, for example, included battles fought between colonists and native peoples as well as fighting between colonists who later became ‘Americans’ against other settlers.
Indian historical paintings capture moments of intense emotion. Traditional styles of American Indian historical paintings rely on a combination of realism and romanticism to create historically authentic representations which also elicit a strong emotive response in the observer. A man who is willing to kill and die for a cause is indeed a sight to behold. One can hardly remain unmoved witnessing a soldier with fire in his eyes atop his horse advancing toward the enemy. Many Indian historical paintings portray loss and tragedy. The famous painting of the Trail of Tears, for example, captures the tragic ethnic cleanings of the Cherokee Nation at the hands of the U.S. army in 1838.
Violent clashes were not the only form of interaction between the very different cultures of historic America. In fact, throughout the history of European settlement in America, many people found ways to co-exist peacefully. Some of these more collaborative historical interactions are the subjects of American Indian historical paintings. Whether meeting for the trade of goods or to form an alliance, scenes of the inter-cultural relationship were not uncommon to the intricate history of America.
The period of the Wild West considered to have occurred in the latter 30 or so years of the 19th century is a period that has been romanticized in American culture. This era took place in the largely unsettled regions of the American South West including modern-day Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and the surrounding areas. This region included the native tribes who had inhabited in the region for hundreds of years before European settlers arrived. The clash of cultures also included Mexican and American settlers. This mix of various cultures and loyalties led to numerous bloody conflicts. Such conflicts, as well as more peaceful or mundane interactions and scenes, are also the subjects of American Indian historical paintings.