[New York. ca. 1940, after the original executed in 1839]. Handcolored mezzotint engraving. The image is 19 1/2 x 13 1/2 inches, plus wide margins. Fine. Item #WRCAM30291
This wonderful image is a mid-20th-century impression from a plate originally engraved by Charles Stuart in 1839, after a contemporary painting by John Gadsby Chapman. Davy Crockett (1786-1836), frontiersman, Indian fighter, and defender of the Alamo, is an archetypal hero of the early United States. From his activities as a scout for Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812, through his service in the Tennessee legislature and the United States House of Representatives, to his death at the Alamo in 1836, his fame grew ever larger. Chapman (1808- 89) met Crockett in the early 1830s and executed a portrait study of him. Crockett was very conscious of his public image as a frontiersman, and worked hard to foster that image while serving as a Congressman from Tennessee. When Chapman's original painting was done, in 1834, Crockett was contemplating a run for the Presidency in the next election. After Crockett's death Chapman worked the study into a full-length portrait. It was exhibited in the fall of 1838 at the Apollo Gallery in New York, an exhibition space that had been founded by a group of artists including Chapman. That painting was acquired by the state of Texas and hung in the capitol in Austin, where it was later destroyed by fire. Chapman painted another version of the portrait, which now hangs in the Harry Ransom Research Center at the University of Texas in Austin. The present engraving states: "New York. Published at the Apollo, 1839." A catalogue issued by the Apollo Gallery in October 1839 describes an engraved version of the present image. Charles Stuart was a mezzotint engraver working in New York at the same time. In the portrait Crockett stands in his buckskins, looking to his left, his right arm outstretched, holding his broad-brimmed hat. In his left arm he cradles a long rifle, and a knife is tucked into his belt. Three obedient dogs gaze up at him, and he stands in a small clearing with a shock of wheat and some trees behind him. The original 1839 version of this print is so rare as to be unobtainable, and is lacking from most major institutional collections. The last we can trace for sale was one offered by The Old Print Shop on the front cover of the PORTFOLIO, in May 1963 for $200 (this at a time when the major Audubon prints were still in the three-figure range). A striking and lovely image of a central figure in the mythology of America.