Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Capturing the game: The artist-sportsman and early animal conservation in American hunting imagery, 1830s-1890s
by Buhler, Doyle Leo, Ph.D., The University of Iowa, 2011, 466; 3567993
Abstract (Summary)

During the last half of the nineteenth century, American sportsmen-artists painted hunting-related images that were designed to promote the ideals of sporting behavior, conservationist thought, and the interests of elite sportsmen against non-elite hunters. Upper-class American attitudes regarding common hunters and trappers, the politics of land use, and the role of conservation in recreational hunting played a significant part in the construction of visual art forms during this period, art which, in turn, helped shape national dialogue on the protection and acceptable uses of wildlife.

This dissertation takes issues critical to mid-century American conservation thought and agendas, and investigates how they were embodied in American hunting art of the time. Beginning with depictions of recreational sportsmen during the era of conservationist club formation (mid-1840s), the discussion moves to representations of the lone trapper at mid-century. These figures were initially represented as a beneficial force in the conquest of the American frontier, but trappers and backwoodsmen became increasingly problematic due to an apparent disregard for game law and order. I explore the ways in which market hunting was depicted, and how it was contrasted with acceptable "sportsmanlike" hunting methods. Subsequent chapters consider the portrayal of the boy hunter, an essential feature to the sportsman's culture and its continuance, and the tumultuous relationship between elite sportsmen and their guides, who were known to illegally hunt off-season. The last chapters address the subject of the wild animal as heroic protagonist and dead game still life paintings, a pictorial type that represented the lifestyle of sportsmen and their concern for conservative catches and adherence to game law. Developments in conservation during the period were significantly tied to class and elitist aspirations, and artist-sportsmen merged these social prejudices with their agenda for game conservation. Their representations of hunting art both responded to and promoted the conservationist cause.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kinsey, Joni L.
Commitee: Hochstrasser, Julie, Johnson, Dorothy, Kinsey, Joni L., Mooney, Barbara B., Rigal, Laura
School: The University of Iowa
Department: Art History
School Location: United States -- Iowa
Source: DAI-A 74/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American studies, Art history
Keywords: Conservation, Game, Hunting, Painting, Sportsmen
Publication Number: 3567993
ISBN: 978-1-303-21254-3
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