About the Exhibit

The Minnesota Historical Society is pleased to present Seth Eastman: Artist on the Frontier, an exhibition of more than 60 watercolors, oils and sketches by acclaimed American artist Seth Eastman. Most pieces were completed in Minnesota between 1840 and 1848.

The exhibition, among the largest presentations of Eastman works assembled, is drawn from two important collections—the Minnesota Historical Society and Mr. and Mrs. Duncan MacMillan collection. The MacMillan collection of Eastman watercolors was originally owned by art collector James J. Hill, founder of the Great Northern Railway. Works from several other collections complete the exhibition.

About Seth Eastman

Seth Eastman (1808-1875), an artist and a career soldier, was stationed at Fort Snelling twice, in 1830-31 and again in 1841-48 when he served as the fort's commander.

As was typical of the time, Eastman studied art while a student at West Point Academy and used his considerable talent recording, in a candid and unassuming way, the frontier landscape around Fort Snelling and the American Indians living in its environs. A prolific artist, his career culminated in the late 1860s when he was commissioned to create a number of paintings for the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Eastman died at his home in Washington, D.C., on August 31, 1875 at the age of 68.

Suggested Readings and Resources
More about Seth Eastman

View of Mendota, 1848

View of Mendota
View of Mendota, 1848.
Oil on canvas.
Location Number: AV2004.88

A centerpiece of the exhibition is the recently acquired major oil painting by Seth Eastman, View of Mendota, 1848, a gift from the Zimmermann family in memory of Mary P. and Harry B. Zimmermann.

Completed the year Eastman was reassigned to Texas, the work features an American Indian family also in transition overlooking the territorial settlement of Mendota.

Mendota was the headquarters of the American Fur Company led at the time by Henry Sibley who was to become Minnesota’s first Governor. Documents show that this painting was most likely commissioned by Sibley himself.


Major support for the exhibition is provided by the George W. Wells, Jr. and Mary Cobb Wells Exhibition Fund and W. Duncan and Nivin MacMillan.