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Buffalo Herds Circa 1806
Watercolor and gouache 40"x 60"
The painting is an exceedingly large painting for the demanding medium of watercolor. Her preliminary work for the painting was done on location of the Teton buffalo herd on Antelope Flats near Yellowstone National Park. The design of the painting is influenced by Alfred Bierstadt's oil paintings of the west and also George Catlin's paintings.
Responding to Meriwether Lewis's account of the magnificence of the great prairies, the plethora of abundance of game, fruit trees and berries of all kind, and his phrase which he wrote again and again "this is paradise," the artist decided to attempt to show the boundless herds and the endless plains. The painting is filled with portents of things to come in the skulls and worrying wolves trying to separate a calf from the mother and bull. A paradise we can only try to project on the screen of our imagination. A time past when the prairies were spoken of as a vast inland sea of grass that flowed beyond human eyes in any direction and the buffalo were numberless. In 1806 when the Expedition returned to St. Louis it is estimated there were 30 to 60 million buffalo on the western plains. By 1883 less than 500 wild buffalo remained. With the herds gone it was the end of the Plains Indian Buffalo Culture and a way of life forever changed.