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"Westward" Mural print — Only one left

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Updated October 15: We have only one left. We had a unique opportunity to get four prints of the huge mural “Westward” made for us and we only have one left. It's the one with the iridescent finish and it's especially striking. After it's gone, we don't believe that we'll be able to get more, so if you are interested, you will want to act now and get the last print we have. — Lee Wright | Founder


A large print of the spectacular mural, Westward, displayed in the beautiful Iowa Sate Capitol depicting the migration of early pioneers traveling through Iowa.

 

The prints:

  • Gloss finish - 24" x 9 7/8"
  • Matte surface - 25 3/8" x 9 5/8"
  • Matte with iridescent surface - 25 7/8" x 9 3/8"

The original mural measures 40 feet wide by 14 feet high and extends the full width of the east wall over the interior staircase.

As the artist explains below, Westward is,

". . . a symbolic presentation of the pioneers led by the spirits of Civilization and Enlightenment to the conquest by cultivation of the Great West. . . . In the air and before the wagon are floating four female figures; one holds the shield with the arms of the State of Iowa upon it; one holds a book symbolizing Enlightenment; two others carry a basket and scatter seeds which are symbolical of the change from wilderness to plowed fields and gardens that shall come over the prairie. Behind the wagon and also floating in the air, two female figures hold respectively a model of a stationary steam engine and of an electric dynamo to suggest the forces which come with the later men.”

The artist and his commission

Edward Blashfield was commissioned in 1904 by the Iowa State Capitol Commission to paint a mural 40 feet wide by 14 feet high to be placed at the head of the grand staircase. Blashfield was paid the sum of $ 10,000 upon the mural’s completion in 1906.

Edwin Blashfield studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for two years. He then studied in Paris, France, from 1867-1887 and 1874-1880 under Leon Bonnat. Mr. Blashfield was an instructor at the Art Students League of New York (1888-1890) and a founding member of the Mural Society of America. During the period of 1890-1930, Mr. Blashfield was considered the most successful mural painter. It was during this time (1904) that Mr. Blashfield was commissioned for the mural that became Westward. The mural was painted in oil on canvas.

Jesseca Penn was hired by Mr. Blashfield to model as the woman seated on the prairie schooner facing out. Ms. Penn was originally from Des Moines, Iowa. Moving from Des Moines to New York, Miss Penn had a career that included modeling, acting, and dancing.

The mural

Here's how the artist explained his composition:

“The main idea of the picture is a symbolic presentation of the pioneers led by the spirits of Civilization and Enlightenment to the conquest by cultivation of the Great West. Considered pictorially, the canvas shows a ‘Prairie Schooner’ drawn by oxen across the prairie. The family rides upon the wagon or walk at its side. Behind them and seen through the growth of stalks at the right come crowding the other pioneers and later men. In the air and before the wagon are floating four female figures; one holds the shield with the arms of the State of Iowa upon it; one holds a book symbolizing Enlightenment; two others carry a basket and scatter seeds which are symbolical of the change from wilderness to plowed fields and gardens that shall come over the prairie. Behind the wagon and also floating in the air, two female figures hold respectively a model of a stationary steam engine and of an electric dynamo to suggest the forces which come with the later men.”

“In the right hand corner of the picture, melons, pumpkins, etc. among which a farmer and a girl, suggest that here is the fringe of cultivation and the beginning of the prairie. At the left a buffalo skull further emphasizes this suggestion.”

“Considered technically, the dominant motive of the composition of the picture is the festoon or Roman garland. This is carried out by the planes of light color, commencing at the left with a group of spirits, carried downward by the white bodice of the girl gathering flowers, onward through the mass of light in the center, to the white overdress of the girl leading the child, and finally toward the right and upward, in the figures of the girl and the spirits of Steam and Electricity. The dark accents in the composition are furnished by the three men grouped together and the skirt of the flower-gathering girl.”

“The hour chosen for the subject is the late afternoon, since Westward suggests into the setting sun. The scheme of color of the picture is based upon the choice of hour, being in the main made up of orange-pink sunset light and its natural complement, bluish shadows, with a few spots of blue and red-brown given as aforesaid by the costumes of the men and the skirt of the kneeling girl. For the sake of preserving the integrity of the composition certain liberties have been taken with average probabilities. Thus, the driver of the oxen is upon the side which is not conventionally correct, because had he been placed in the correct place in that corner of the canvas he would have thrown the composition out of balance. Advantage was therefore taken of the fact that he might momentarily leave his place. Again, a very small child would not often hurry along keeping up with the striding men and women, but on the other hand, the children at times undoubtedly did wish and need, for exercise sake, to run along awhile with the procession. From the point of view of composition, a small mass or figure was needed just at the point where the child was introduced; a dog would have made a spot of about the right height, but two dogs were already in the picture and a figure of a small child therefore served the purpose better.”

“These remarks about the ox-driver and the small child are added to bring to the notice of the layman the fact that the artist’s first duty to his client is to make his picture artistically good, good that is, in composition, drawing, and color. For the sake of his composition, he may, and indeed should, take advantage of anything which is possible, avoiding only those things which would seem unreasonable to both common sense and imagination.”

Edwin Howland Blashfield

 

Source: The Iowa Legislature

More information on Edwin Howland Blashfield

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