Art: How The West Was Spun

A big, controversial show in Washington stirs revisions of frontier art

The first photograph in the catalog of "The West as America: Reinterpreting Images of the Frontier, 1820-1920," the large and deeply interesting show now on view at Washington's National Museum of American Art, has to be one of the funniest ever seen in a museum. It is of Charles Schreyvogel, a turn-of-the- century Wild West illustrator, painting in the open air. His subject crouches alertly before him: a cowboy pointing a six-gun. They are on the flat roof of an apartment building in Hoboken, N.J. Such was the "authentic West" of Schreyvogel and other painters like Frederic Remington and Charles Russell,...

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