The title “Coming of the White Man” after 1850 held no irony, only the silent respect of what Andrew Jackson Democrats called manifest destiny, later defined as missionary duty to expand and control western lands, to learn the Indians, to fence the fields, to shoot the buffalo, to whip the Spanish and scatter the English. Countless paintings, etchings, poems, essays used this title.

Native peoples, conceived of as mysterious, dangerous and ignorant by white pioneers and their artists, were often depicted in artwork of the time as stunned, entranced, or thrilled by the invasion of covered wagons. Later, when what we now call genocide began to sink in to the white consciousness, images of Native people transformed to defeated warriors, beautiful squaws, vast landscapes overwhelming tiny teepees, and later again, with photography, severe portraits of alien and rough strangers.

Now, secluded in a isolated section of Washington Park, this fantastic artwork Coming of the White Man steps out of the 19th Century time machine. For decades it has been kept off the track of tourists and acts as a rendezvous for the West Hills bottle gang. A bit of a treasure hunt? Go to 25th and Burnside and climb all the stairs!

Considering its over 100 years old and terrifically politically incorrect (our irony, the figures look toward the U of Portland statue three miles away, of Clark and York, with some traitorous guide), The Coming of the White man looks pretty good. Someone at sometime broke off the branch one of the figures held, and it could use a routine cleaning and waxing. The craftwork is excellent, quite first rate anywhere for that time.

From Portland Parks & Recreation – “Coming of the White Man was given to the City by the family of David P. Thompson, an early Portland mayor and donor of the Elk statue downtown in the Plaza Blocks. This bronze statue, sculpted by H. A. MacNeil and completed in 1904, features two Native Americans. Facing eastward, they look down upon the route that ox teams trudged bringing settlers to this part of the country. The older of the two is said to be Chief Multnomah of the Multnomah people.” How romantic.

From askart.com, “Born in Massachusetts in 1866, Hermon Atkins MacNeil became a well-known sculptor of Indian subjects, commemorative works and medals including the designing of the medal of award for the 1915 Pan American Exposition in San Francisco and the quarter dollar for the United States government. He was also a teacher. His sculptures are in many locations including the Supreme Court Building in Washington DC, the State Capitol Buildings in Connecticut and Missouri, and the City Park in Portland, Oregon. He died in College Point, NY in 1947.”

From nealauction.com “Trained in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and Academie Julin, Hermon A. MacNeil became renowned for his sculptures of Native American Indians and monumental works. MacNeil distinguished career including teaching art at Cornell University and the Art Institute of Chicago, winning the Rinehart Roman Scholarship and Silver Medal at the 1900 Paris Exposition, exhibiting at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, and designing the United States quarter.”

The Standing Liberty Quarter, by MacNeil, in circulation from 1916 – 1930. Nice.

McNeil also rendered the William McKinley Memorial at the capitol in Columbus, Ohio, in 1906.

Sculptors reworked ideas and artwork, often reproducing successful models in smaller forms – imagine the public sculpture was a marketing device for a smaller, home-sized version.

Here’s a version the Met in NYC owns. I think there are probably a lot of these floating around.

MacNeil was attracted to images of those suffering, or about to suffer. Or his audience was. I don’t know.

Here a home-sized version of his The Slave Block.

Great Portland tourist pictures – again, your virtual visit is more appreciated.

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