Westward the Star of Empire Takes Its Way - Near Council Bluffs, Iowa
Painting by Andrew Melrose, Westward the Star of Empire Takes Its Way - Near Council Bluffs, Iowa, 1867. Signed bottom right. European-Americans of the late nineteenth century saw themselves as living in a fundamentally transformative time; change was a major theme of art that depicted frontier settlement as a process of nation building. Progress entailed loss as well as gain, shown here by tree stumps where the wilderness once stood. Melrose painted this picture in celebration of the railroad’s arrival in Council Bluffs, suggesting this was a small price to pay for the coming of civilization. In Andrew Melrose’s painting, the wilderness on the right side of the image is transformed into a pioneer homestead, as the darkness gives way to the rosy dawn of a new day. Fueling this process is the engine, its headlamp burning bright as it leads the way for future settlers.
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