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 William De La Montagne Cary  (1840 - 1922)



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Lived/Active: Massachusetts/Kansas      Known for: Indian-western genre, illustrator

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Ad Code: 2
  AskART Artist  
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
With a thirty-year career as a western illustrator based in New York City, William Cary made his first trip West in 1861 in an ox-wagon train along the Missouri River bound for Fort Benton where he narrowly escaped capture by the Crow Indians. From Fort Benton, he set out with a cook and guide and stayed at Fort Union for six weeks, where he observed life among the Assiniboine Indians nearby. He also signed on with a survey crew, which led him to the West Coast, and from there he took a ship back to New York City, In 1874, he took his second and last trip West, joining the John Mullan railroad survey to travel to Walla Walla, Washington.

Most of his illustrations were based on a combination of memory and sketches from these trips. He had a widespread reputation for his illustration skills, which earned him numerous commissions from magazines including Leslie's and Harper's. He also did oil paintings, many of them of Indian women with his texts of verbiage that described the hard circumstances of these people, a reflection of the common Euro-American view of Indian life.

Cary also did several paintings and an etching featuring Buffalo Bill Cody, a figure of the West that he first met in the 1860s. In 1884, Cary spent several weeks studying Cody's Wild West Show.

Source: Whitney Gallery of Western Art by Sarah Boehme
Exhibition Record (Museums, Institutions and Awards):
Gilcrease Institute of Art, Tulsa, OK; Amon Carter Museum; Anschutz Collection.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born Rockland, NY, 1840; died Brookline, MA, Jan. 7, 1922. Painter, specialized in western genre. Illustrator. Left New York in 1861 to explore the artistic possibilities of the new land in his careful, scrupulous, and direct style of painting. At Fort Union, NM, Cary and two New York City companions joined an ox wagon train for Fort Benton, MT. At Fort Benton the three men hired a guide and cook and set out to cross the mountains. Fortunately, they ran into the John Mullan railroad survey crew and accompanied them to Walla Walla, WA. For 30 years Carey illustrated the west for magazines such as Harper’s Weekly, Leslie’s Weekly and Scribners, mostly from recollection.
Susan Craig, "Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945)"
Cone, Mary Ellen. The Status of Kansas Literature and Art. Typed manuscript, 1939.; Dawdy, Doris Ostrander. Artists of the American West: A Biographical Dictionary. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1974. Samuels, Peggy. Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1976.; AskArt,, accessed Sept. 2, 2005; Taft, Lorado. History of American Sculpture. New edition with supplemental chapter by Adeline Adams. New York: Macmillan Co, 1930.; Ladner, Mildred died William De la Montagne Cary: Artist on the Missouri River (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1984).
This and over 1,750 other biographies can be found in Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945) compiled by Susan V. Craig, Art & Architecture Librarian at University of Kansas.

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, I:
William de la Montagne Cary
Born: Rockland (Lake Tappan), NY 1840
Died: Boston, Massachusetts 1922

Important Western genre painter, illustrator

An established illustrator for Harper’s and Leslie’s when he was 20, Cary with two other youths left NYC in 1860 to start a storybook trip west with no particular destination in mind. They took the river boat Spread Eagle from St. Louis in May 1861, transferring to the Chippewa at Fort Union in mid-June to see the upper Missouri. On the way to Fort Benton, the boat caught fire and the entire party returned on a handmade flatboat. The young New Yorkers remained at Fort Union for six weeks, exploring with the neighboring Indians. In August, they joined a wagon train for Fort Benton that was captured by Crow Indians, than freed because of the presence of an official of the fur company. From Benton in September, the three youths started west again with only a guide and a cook, until by chance after 300 miles on their own, they met with a railway survey team that took them toward Portland, Oregon. Cary left for home via San Francisco and the Isthmus, arriving at the outbreak of the Civil War and loaded with sketches of the forts along the upper Missouri just before the forts were abandoned.

Cary then spent the rest of his life painting the West from his sketches and his memory, beginning about 1866 and continuing for at least 30 years. His illustrations appeared in Leslie’s Weekly, Harper’s Weekly, Scribner’s, etc. He also illustrated the account of his 1860 trip written in 1895 by one of his companions. He made at least one other trip west, in the summer of 1874 when he was invited to accompany the US Government’s survey of the Northern Boundary.

Resource: SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing

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William Cary is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
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