William de la Montagne Cary (American, 1840–1922),
Jim Bridger with Sir William Drummond Stewart
oil on canvas , 14 ¼ x 18 ¼ in.; 36.20 x 46.36 cm
Museum purchase with funds provided in part by Michael and Gail Yanney in honor of Dr. James O. Armi, 1999.46
Cary, a New York painter, ventured West in 1861, 1867 and 1874. He painted portraits of Custer and Buffalo Bill Cody from life and published many magazine illustrations based on his frontier travels. It is unlikely, however, that this image is based on first-hand knowledge. Although Cary might have sought out famed mountain man Jim Bridger (1804–1881) at his Missouri home, the Scotsman Stewart’s last American journey was in 1844, and he died the year before this painting was done. The friendship of Bridger and Stewart, however, was part of mountain man lore. Cary’s choice of them as subjects indicates a continuing public interest in the romance of the fur trade, an era that essentially ended with the last rendezvous in 1840.