John Mix Stanley


Nationality: American

Affiliations: Indian Painter, Survey Artist, Official artist for the Isacc I. Stevens exhibition, and 1853

John Mix Stanley was born in Canandaigua, New York in 1814 and died in Detroit, Michigan in 1872. He became an important Indian painter and survey artist.

Orphaned in 1828, Stanley was apprenticed to a coach maker. He moved to Detroit and became a painter of houses and signs in 1834. There, James Bowman, an accomplished portrait painter, admired a Stanley sign and took Stanley as a pupil. Stanley painted portraits around Chicago from 1836 to 1838. In 1842 Stanley established a studio in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, painting frontiersmen and Indians. By 1846, Stanley’s paintings of Indians were on display in Cincinnati. Stanley joined a wagon train for Santa Fe that year where he became the artist of the Kearny military expedition.  Kearny’s official report contained lithographs of Stanley sketches.

He was painting Indian portraits in Oregon in 1847 and Polynesian portraits in Hawaii in 1848–1849. Stanley displayed his Indian Gallery in Eastern cities in 1850–1851 and, in 1852, placed his collection of 150 paintings on display at the Smithsonian Institution. He offered it to the United States Government for $19,200. Congress refused, and, unfortunately, the collection was destroyed by fire in 1865.

In 1853, Stanley became the official artist for the Isaac I. Stevens expedition for the northern railway survey and a year later he used his field sketches to prepare a huge panorama of 42 episodes of Western scenes. Like most of Stanley’s original work, the panorama has disappeared.

Stanley married in 1854. The remainder of his life was spent as a studio artist and arranging for chromolithography of his paintings.

Sources: Who’s Who in American Art.