Wagons west. Images of the American Frontier

On the 14th February Ian Beckett gave us a fascinating insight into a world now lost

He is very well qualified to lecture on this subject as he has extensive personal knowledge from his time living in the United States where he taught at various universities and other prestigious institutions. His depth of knowledge was evident from his talk which was a beautifully organised synthesis of the history of the development of the American interior shown through the evidence of visual imagery, from the time of the first settlers to the era of the cult movies and novels of the first half of the twentieth century.

Ian emphasised the transient nature of world in a state of inexorable change and the artists’ understanding of their role both in recording images soon to disappear and in informing and influencing the opinions of entrepreneurs, politicians and the general public of the time. Many images were designed to excite the imagination in order to generate the funds needed to finance further expeditions and encourage settlement. Such images helped to create the cultural legacy of the Unted States and became a fundamental component in establishing the American Dream.