Born in Brunswick, Maine, Seth Eastman, who became Brigadier General Seth Eastman, was a mid-19th century painter, topographer and draftsman, whose name remains famous for his depictions of United States military posts, western landscapes, and Indian life. Seventeen of his paintings of historic forts are in the collection of the United States Capitol, and include Fort Defiance, Arizona; Fort Rice in North Dakota, Fort Knox in Maine, Fort Snelling in Minnesota and Fort Sumter in South Carolina. He also had a military career as military governor of Cincinnati and post commander in New York, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.
He graduated in 1829 from West Point Military Academy and that same year, with the First Infantry was assigned to the upper Mississippi at Fort Snelling in Minnesota. He returned to West Point and studied for seven years with Robert Weir, art instructor.
In 1837, he published a book on topographic drawing and exhibited his paintings at the National Academy of Design in New York. He was then assigned to frontier posts, including Fort Snelling from 1841 to 1848, and during this time, he created over four-hundred paintings of frontier Indians. His skill led to his transfer to Washington D.C. in 1850 to do more than three-hundred illustration plates for Henry Rowe Schoolcraft’s congressionally authorized work on the North American Indians.
Eastman’s wife, Mary Henderson Eastman, collected Indian legends and information on their customs, which she published in the 1840s and 1850s. She and her husband shared the conviction that Indians should be converted to Christianity.
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Art in the United States Capitol, commissioned by 91st Congress