William Tylee Ranney (American, 1813–1857),
Halt on the Prairie
, ca. 1850
oil on paper on board, 8 ½ x 14 ½ in.; 21.59 x 36.83 cm
Bequest of Mrs. John F. Merriam,
It is not clear how much direct knowledge Ranney had of the frontier West. Some accounts place him briefly in Texas in the 1830s and 1840s, but he spent the great majority of his adult life in the New York City area. He was a storyteller, focused on the West of stalwart scouts, trappers, and pioneers. His images quietly celebrate the frontier spirit, with little of the sentimentality that characterized many other popular portrayals of the time. Halt on the Prairie appears to be a sketch or study for a larger work (either never completed or now lost). Perhaps Ranney was inspired by published accounts of Oregon Trail migrants — estimated as high as 5,000 settlers in 1847 alone.