Gerald Cassidy Art
Study for Dawn of the West (pair), 32 x 6 (each), oil on canvas board
In the left panel, a trapper sits in contemplation before a campfire. In the right panel, a wolf howls in frustration before a Native American burial. In these mirrored studies for “Dawn of the West,” Gerald Cassidy is working out the challenges of conveying Golden, Colorado’s multiple histories in one large work. It was the mid-1920s, and the artist had been commissioned to paint a life-sized mural memorializing Harry Rubey, a local banker. Naturally, the center panel would pay homage to the gold rush that gave the city its name, and the banker his currency. But the flanking panels were Cassidy’s opportunity to expand the narrative and acknowledge the region’s other historic populations.
Of particular interest is the right panel’s subject: It is a Native American warrior’s corpse, weatherproofed with wrappings, elevated against marauding animals, adorned with tribal remembrances, and offered to the sky. Because Cassidy strove for authenticity in his rendering of Native American life, the shields gracing the top halves of the panels were likely drawn from observation. Of the two tribes - Ute and Arapaho - associated with the region of Golden, Colorado, Ute is the one Cassidy is most likely referencing. A Ute warrior’s shield had a buffalo-hide core and buckskin covering, often with feathers dangling from its face. Cassidy has depicted the shields with a geometric design of black and yellow, the same color pairing reportedly favored by Ute warriors for their battle paint.