Augusta Stylianou Gallery
When the Eastmans were based in Washington, DC before the American Civil War, Mary entered the literary "lists" and wrote the bestselling Aunt Phillis's Cabin: or, Southern Life As It Is (1852). Defending slaveholders, she responded as a Southern planter to Harriet Beecher Stowe's work. Her novel was one of the most widely read anti-Tom novels and a commercial success, selling 20,000-30,000 copies.
Having retired as a brigadier general for disability during the American Civil War, Eastman was reactivated when commissioned by Congress to make several paintings for the US Capitol. Between 1867 and 1869, he painted a series of nine scenes of American Indian life for the House Committee on Indian Affairs. In 1870 Congress commissioned Eastman to create a series of 17 paintings of important U.S. fortifications, to be hung in the meeting rooms of the House Committee on Military Affairs. He completed the paintings in 1875.
Seth Eastman was born on January 24, 1808 in Brunswick, Maine, the eldest of 13 children of Robert and Sarah Lee Eastman. He persuaded his parents to let him go into the military. Sixteen when he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1824, he graduated in 1829 to enter the Army as a second lieutenant in the 1st Infantry Regiment.
From 1833 to 1840, Eastman was assigned to West Point, where he taught drawing (used for mapmaking). In 1841 Eastman was appointed commander of Fort Snelling and returned to Minnesota. While stationed there for several years with his wife and growing family, he continued to study and paint Native American life. He learned much about the Dakota culture particularly. He painted and drew pictures of the Sioux villages of Kaposia and Little Crow, as well as settlements in present-day Scott, Wabasha, and Winona counties.
Hearing that Congress had authorized a study of Indians by the explorer and former US Indian agent Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Eastman asked to be assigned as illustrator. Finally in 1849 at age 41, he had the chance. Captain Eastman and his family settled in Washington, and he began to work on what became hundreds of pictures to illustrate the massive Schoolcraft study, published in six volumes from 1851-1857.
It was a monumental work that for Eastman consumed five years. During that time, he completed some 275 pages of illustrations to accompany Schoolcraft’s six-volume Information Regarding the History, Conditions, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States. When Volume I came off the press in early 1851, Eastman could take just pride in his accomplishment. His precise and exquisitely executed illustrations of Indian life, painted almost entirely from his frontier sketches, proved that he was singularly the best-qualified person in the country to undertake this epic work.
Near the end of his career, at the rank of Brigadier General, Eastman was commissioned by the House Committee on Military Affairs to paint pictures of seventeen important forts. He completed these paintings between 1870 and 1875. One controversial painting was Death Whoop, which was twice removed from display because of negative comments from viewers, as it portrayed an Indian's scalping a white man. In the 1930s the paintings were displayed again in the Capitol Building.
Seth Eastman used color and realism to depict Dakota and other Native American scenes. His paintings were without the Anglo-centric stereotyping and dilution found in other paintings within that genre.
* Seth Eastman, Treatise on Topographical Drawing, New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1837. His textbook on the techniques of map-making and map-reading was made mandatory for all topography classes at West Point. Eastman created symbols for use on all maps, and explained how to draw height, width, and depth on a two-dimensional sheet of paper.
During his first, brief posting at Fort Snelling near what is now Minneapolis, Seth Eastman was married to Wakaninajinwin (Stands Sacred), the fifteen-year-old daughter of Cloud Man, a Dakotah (Santee Sioux) chief.
Seth Eastman was reassigned from Fort Snelling in 1832, soon after the birth of his daughter Winona (meaning First-born Daughter). He declared his marriage ended when he left, as was typical of many European-American men who abandoned Indian women and their children.
His daughter Winona was also called Mary Nancy Eastman. She married a Santee Sioux and had five children, dying at the birth of the youngest, later known as Charles. After adopting Christianity, her husband and two of their sons took the Eastman surname. Winona's eldest son Rev. John (Marpiyawaku Kida) Eastman became a Presbyterian missionary at Flandreau, South Dakota. Her second son Dr. Charles Eastman was the first Native American certified as a medical doctor, after earning his medical degree at Boston University. While practicing medicine, he also worked for Native American rights. Eastman wrote a memoir, Indian Boyhood (1902, reprint 1971, 2007), and eight other popular books about his experience of Dakota cultures, some of which were translated into European languages and published on the Continent.
In 1835, while stationed at West Point, Seth Eastman married a second time, to Mary Henderson, daughter of a surgeon there. She and her family were from Warrenton, Virginia. They had five children together, some born during his extended assignment in the West when he returned to Fort Snelling as commanding officer.
Mary Henderson was born in Warrenton, Virginia in 1818. She moved with her family to West Point, New York when her father was assigned as a surgeon at the military academy. There she met and married Seth Eastman in 1835 when she was seventeen. As Henderson noted in her novel Aunt Phillis's Cabin (1852), she was a descendant of the First Families of Virginia (FFV).
In 1841 Seth Eastman was promoted to Brigadier General and appointed commander of Fort Snelling. He and his family lived there for years. This was when Henderson Eastman wrote Dacotah, or Life and Legends of the Sioux Around Fort Snelling (1849), which Seth Eastman illustrated. She used her time at Fort Snelling to record and preserve the local culture. Among the legends she collected from the Dakota was a version of the death of the lovelorn Princess Winona. She sent this book to the US Congress in 1849; it is online on Project Gutenberg.
After the Eastmans returned to the East, they lived in Washington, D.C. In the years of tension before the American Civil War, many writers published novels that dealt with each side of the slavery issue. After the stir caused by Harriet Beecher Stowe's anti-slavery Uncle Tom's Cabin, Mary Henderson Eastman defended southern slaveholding society by writing what became a best-selling book: Aunt Phillis's Cabin: or, Southern Life As It Is (1852). It sold 20,000-30,000 copies, making it a bestseller and one of the best-known of the anti-Tom novels produced in that period. It is also available on Project Gutenberg.
* Mary Henderson Eastman, Aunt Phillis's Cabin: or, Southern Life As It Is, Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co., 1852
1. ^ Mary Henderson Eastman, Encyclopædia Britannica
* John F. McDermott, The Art of Seth Eastman: A Traveling Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings Circulated by the Smithsonian Institution, 1959-1960, Washington, D.C.: 1960?
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