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William S. Jewett

Born: 1821, South Dover, New York, United States of America
Died: 1873, Springfield, Massachusetts, United States of America

The Promised Land - The Grayson Family
1850

Oil on canvas
Image: 50 3/4 x 64 in. (128.9 x 162.6 cm)
Frame: 64 x 78 1/2 x 6 in. (162.6 x 199.4 x 15.2 cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.79
Signed: Lower left: W.S. Jewett./1850
Artist Name: []

Interpretation

The Promised Land—The Grayson Family combines portrait, landscape, and history painting in a triumphal celebration of a family’s achievement and a region’s promise. William Smith Jewett’s painting shows Andrew Jackson Grayson, his wife, Frances Jane Timmons, and their son, Edward, pausing at the point in the Sierra Nevada mountains from which, on their 1846 overland journey from Missouri to California, they had first glimpsed the Sacramento Valley. Wearing an incongruous fringed buckskin suit over his formal white shirt and black cravat, Grayson stands leaning on his rifle as he gazes out across the virginal landscape, the dead stag on the ground beyond him proof of its natural riches and of his manly skill. His seated wife, soberly attired in a fashionable black dress, holds their child, who gazes directly at the viewer, his ermine-trimmed red gown an indication not only of the family’s prosperity but of his princely stature as the scion of one of California’s founding families. In the background, the grazing horse, discarded sidesaddle, and cooking pot suggest the end of an arduous journey. Beyond the figures, the magnificent California landscape, encompassing rocky mountain peaks and the broad, placid valley, are bathed in a beneficent western light.

A New Orleans native, Grayson came to California with his wife and child in 1846, just before the Gold Rush, and prospered there in land speculation and other ventures. He was also an avid ornithologist and artist who eventually became recognized as the leading authority on the birds of western North America. His order for an outdoor portrait commemorating the family’s arrival in California was Jewett’s first major commission in the state, and it was attended by specific instructions as to the clothing, accessories, and setting to be portrayed. Grayson guided the painter to the exact spot he wanted pictured, which Jewett sketched on-site, completing the painting in his San Francisco studio. It cost two thousand dollars, an astounding sum at the time, and it was an immediate success as a representation of “the high idea of the progress of civilization westward.”

Conflating the Graysons’ historical arrival in California with their present status and wealth, the painting also draws on artistic precedent to transcend mere portraiture. Grayson, resting from the journey and gazing out over America’s “promised land,” is likened to Moses contemplating Canaan from Mount Pisgah. Mrs. Grayson and their son are a latter-day Madonna and Child, while the group, like other images of western pioneers, recalls the Holy Family’s Flight into Egypt. This, however, is a prosperous family relaxing as if within the safe confines of their own estate, in the manner of the outdoor group portraits, known as conversation pieces, common in eighteenth-century English painting. In contrast to the actual social lawlessness and economic chaos of California in the Gold Rush era, The Promised Land—The Grayson Family projects a California whose rich natural abundance is matched by its civilized culture and domestic virtue.

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Provenance

The artist
(commissioned by) Andrew Jackson Grayson, California and Mexico, 1850–69
Mrs. Frances James Timmons Grayson Crane, St. Helena, California, 1869–1908 (widow of Andrew Jackson Grayson, later married Dr. C. B. Crane in 1872)
Descended in family of Mrs. John M. McPike, 1908–55 (daughter of Dr. C. B. Crane)
Mr. and Mrs. Edward McPike
Waddell Smith, San Rafael, California, 1955–70
Mrs. Waddell Smith, 1970–80
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York, New York, 1980
Daniel J. Terra Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1981-85
Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., 1985-94
Daniel J. Terra Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1994
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1999

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Exhibition History

First Industrial Exhibition of the Mechanics' Institute, Mechanics’ Institute, San Francisco, California, (organizer). Venue: Mechanics’ Institute, San Francisco, California, September 1857, no. 920. [exh. cat.]

Mercantile Library Association, San Francisco, California, (organizer). Venue: Mercantile Library Association, San Francisco, California, 1859–69. [exh. cat.]

The Society of California Pioneers, Pioneer Hall, San Francisco, California (organizer). Venue: Pioneer Hall, San Francisco, California, 1869–1881.

Sutter's Fort, California, 1946–52.

Pony Express Retreat, San Rafael, California, 1955–75.

America as Art, National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., April 30–November 7, 1976. [exh. cat.]

Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, July 1981–November 26, 1982.

American Art from the Gallery's Collection, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York, New York, 1980. [exh. cat.]

1846: Portrait of the Nation, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (organizer). Venue: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., April 12–August 11, 1996. [exh. cat.]

Collection Cameo, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, August 2000.

Héroïque et le quotidien: les artistes américains, 1820–1920 (The Extraordinary and the Everyday: American Perspectives, 1820–1920), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–November 30, 2001. [exh. cat.]

American Classics from the Collection, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, May 14-June 15, 2003.

Visages de l'Amérique: de George Washington à Marilyn Monroe (Faces of America: From George Washington to Marilyn Monroe), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 2004. [exh. cat.]

Twarze Ameryki: Portrety z kolekcji Terra Foundation for American Art, 1770–1940 (Faces of America: Portraits from the collection of the Terra Foundation for American Art, 1770–1940), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France and Miedzynarodowe Centrum Kultury (International Cultural Center), Crakow, Poland (organizers). Venue: International Cultural Center, Crakow, Poland, February 15–May 7, 2006. [exh. cat.]

Art in America: 300 Years of Innovation, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, NY and Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, IL (organizers). Venues: National Museum of China, Beijing, China, February 9-April 5, 2007; Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, China, April 30-June 30, 2007; Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai, China, April 30-June 30, 2007 (Shanghai presentations ran concurrently); The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia, July 23–September 9, 2007; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Bilbao, Spain, October 15, 2007–April 27, 2008. [exh. cat.]

Manifest Destiny, Manifest Responsibility: Environmentalism and the Art of the American Landscape. Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, Illinois and Loyola University Museum of Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizers). Venue: Loyola University Museum of Art, May 17–August 10, 2008. [exh. cat.]

Art Across America, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; National Museum of Korea, Seoul, South Korea; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizers). Venues: National Museum of Korea, Seoul, February 4– May 12, 2013; Daejeon Museum of Art, Daejeon, South Korea, June 7–September 1, 2013. [exh. cat.]

America: Painting a Nation, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago, Illinois, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia (organizers). Venue: Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, November 9, 2013–February 8, 2014. [exh. cat]

"Gold! Riches and Ruin," Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis, Indiana (organizer). Venue: Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis, Indiana, March 7–August 9, 2015.

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Published References

B. “Communications: The Emigrant’s Family.” The Home Journal 47, no. 249 (November 16, 1850): 2. Text p. 2.

The Home Journal [Town and Country] (February 1851).

Report of the First Industrial Exhibition of the Mechanics' Institute (September 7, 1857): 97. Text p. 97, no. 920.

6th Annual Report. Mercantile Library Association, San Francisco, California, pp. 30-31.

Avery, Benjamin Parke. "Art Beginnings on the Pacific Coast." Overland Monthly (July 1868): 30ff.

Star [St. Helena, California] (September 23, 1881).

Barnes, Mary Sheldon. "The Audubon of the Pacific." Sequoia Bulletin (September 22, 1900): 4.

Stanley-Dexter, Mrs. Henry. San Francisco Bulletin (September 22, 1900): 4, col. 4.

Hood, Juliette. "Andrew Grayson, the Audubon of the Pacific." The Auk (October 1933): 396.

Evans, Elliot. "The Promised Land." The Society of California Pioneers Quarterly (November 1957): 2–12. Text pp. 2–12; ill. p. 2 (black & white).

Taylor, Joshua C. America as Art. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, for the National Collection of Fine Arts, 1976. Ill. p. 147 (black & white).

American Art from the Gallery's Collection. (exh. cat., Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc.). New York: Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., 1980. Text p. 28; ill. p. 29, no. 19 (black & white).

Van Nostrand, Jeanne. The First Hundred Years of Painting in California, 1775–1875. San Francisco, California: John Howell-Books, 1980, pp. 46–47.

Glanz, Dawn. How the West was Drawn: American Art and the Settling of the Frontier. Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Research Press, 1982. Text pp. 61–63, 112; ill. fig. 26 (black & white).

Gwertzman, Bernard. “Diplomat’s Fondest Memory: China Breakthrough.” The New York Times (September 24, 1982). Ill. section K (black & white, detail appears in photograph).

Truettner, William H. "The Art of History: American Exploration and Discovery Scenes, 1840–1860." The American Art Journal 14, no. 1 (Winter 1982): 4–31. Text p. 18; ill. p. 15, fig. 12 (black & white).

Wilson, Raymond L. “Painters of California’s Silver Era.” The American Art Journal 16, no. 4 (Autumn 1984): 71–92. Text pp. 72, 90n4.

American Paintings III. New York: Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., 1985. Text p. 38; ill. p. 39 (color).

Gerdts, William H. Art Across America: Two Centuries of Regional Painting, 1710–1920. Vol. 3. New York: Abbeville Press, Publishers, 1990. Text pp. 225–26; ill. p. 225, no. 3.166 (black & white).

Vincent, Stephen, ed. O California! Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century California Landscapes and Observations. San Francisco, California: Bedford Arts, Publishers, 1990. Text p. 264 (list of illustrations); ill. p. 89, no. 38 (color).

Truettner William H., ed. The West as America: Reinterpreting Images of the Frontier, 1820–1920. (exh. cat., National Museum of American Art). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991. Text pp. 97–100, 263; ill. p. 99, no. 83 (color).

Truettner, William H. "Reinterpreting Images of Westward Expansion, 1820–1920." The Magazine Antiques (March 1991): 542–55. Text pp. 548, 549; ill. pp. 546–47, pl. V (color).

Trachtenberg, Alan. "Contesting the West." Art in America 79, no. 9 (September 1991): 118–23, 152. Ill. p. 120 (color).

Kirk, Anthony. “In a Golden Land so Far: The Rise of Art in Early California.” California History 71, no. 1 (Spring 1992): 2–23. Text pp. 10, 23; ill. pl. 1 (color).

Driesbach, Janice T. “Landmarks of Early California Painting: The Crocker Art Museum Exhibition.” California History 71, no. 1 (Spring 1992): 24–32, 49–59. Text pp. 28–29; ill. p. 24 (black & white); p. 33, pl. 1 (color).

Loughery, John. “History, Identity, and Other Big Questions.” The Hudson Review 45, no. 1 (Spring 1992): 121–127. Text p. 125.

Gulliford, Andrew. “Review: The West as America: Reinterpreting Images of the Frontier, 1820–1920.” The Journal of American History 79, no. 1 (June 1992): 199–208. Text pp. 202.

Husch, Gail E. “’Poor White Folks’ and ‘Western Squatters’: James Henry Beard’s Images of Emigration.” American Art 7, no. 3 (Summer 1993): 14–39. Text pp. 15, 17, 18, 36, 38; ill. p 16 (black & white).

Christman, Margaret C. S. 1846: Portrait of the Nation. (exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press for the National Portrait Gallery, 1996. Ill. p. 97 (color). Text p. 97; ill. p. 97 (color).

Davis, John. The Landscape of Belief: Encountering the Holy Land in Nineteenth-Century American Art and Culture. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1996. Text pp. 21–22, 171, 221; ill. p. 12, fig. 3 (black & white).

Henderson, Amy and Adrienne L. Kaeppler, eds. Exhibiting Dilemmas: Issues of Representation at the Smithsonian. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997. Text pp. 35–39; ill. p. 36, fig. 2.2 (black & white).

Driesbach, Janice T., Harvey L. Jones, and Katherine Church Holland. Art of the Gold Rush. (exh. cat., Oakland Museum of California). Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1998. Text pp. 4, 38, 39, 44, 123; ill. p. 39, fig. 33 (color).

Moure, Nancy Dustin Wall. California Art: 450 Years of Painting and Other Media. Los Angeles, California: Dustin Publications, 1998. Text p. 33; ill. p. 32 (color).

Herman, Daniel J. "The Other Daniel Boone: The Nascence of a Middle-Class Hunter Hero, 1784–1860." Journal of the Early Republic 18, no. 3 (Fall 1998): 429–457. Text p. 449–450, 455; ill. p. 452 (black & white).

The American Art Book. London, England: Phaidon, 1999. Ill. p. 227 (color).

Perry, Claire. Pacific Arcadia: Images of California, 1600–1915. (exh. cat., Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University). New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1999. Text pp. 77–80; ill. p. 77, fig. 13 (color).

Kirk, Anthony. “’As Jolly as a Clam at High Water’: The Rise of Art in Gold Rush California.” California History 79, no. 2 (Summer, 2000): 169–203. Text pp. 188, 189, 202n32; ill. pl. 8 (color); p. 33, pl. 1 (color).

The Promised Land - The Grayson Family, William S. Jewett. Collection Cameo sheet, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, August 2000. Ill. (black & white).

Tanaka, Masayuki. American Heroism. (exh. cat., The National Museum of Western Art). Tokyo, Japan: The National Museum of Western Art, 2001. Text p. 50; ill. p. 50, fig. 45 (black & white).

Cartwright, Derrick R. The Extraordinary and the Everyday: American Perspectives, 1820–1920. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2001. Text p. 23 (checklist).

Cartwright, Derrick R. L'Héroïque et le quotidian: les artistes américains, 1820–1920. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2001. Text p. 23 (checklist).

Kennedy, Elizabeth and Sophie Lévy. Faces of America: Portraits of the Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, 1770–1940. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2004. Text p. 32 (checklist).

Kennedy, Elizabeth and Sophie Lévy. Visages de l'Amérique: le portrait dans la collection de la Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1770–1940. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 2004. Text p. 32 (checklist).

Lévy, Sophie, et al. Twarze Ameryki: Portrety z kolekcji Terra Foundation for American Art, 1770–1940/Faces of America: Portraits from the collection of the Terra Foundation for American Art, 1770–1940. (exh. cat. International Cultural Center). Cracow, Poland: International Cultural Center, 2006. Text p. 70; ill. p. 71 (color).

Davidson, Susan, ed. Art in America: 300 Years of Innovation. (exh. cat., National Museum of China, Beijing; Shanghai Museum). New York, NY: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; Chicago, IL: Terra Foundation for American Art, 2007. Ill. p. 123 (color).

Davidson, Susan, ed. Art in America: 300 Years of Innovation. (exh. cat., National Museum of China, Beijing; Shanghai Museum). New York, NY: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; Chicago, IL: Terra Foundation for American Art, 2007. Chinese edition. Ill. p. 123 (color).

Davidson, Susan, ed. Art in the USA: 300 años de innovación. (exh. cat., Guggenheim Museum Bilbao). New York, NY: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; Chicago, IL: Terra Foundation for American Art, 2007. Ill. p. 87 (color).

Davidson, Susan, ed. Art in America: 300 Years of Innovation. (exh. cat., Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts). New York, NY: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; Chicago, IL: Terra Foundation for American Art, 2007. Russian edition. Ill. p. 71 (color).

Kete, Kathleen, ed. A Cultural History of Animals in the Age of Empire. New York, New York: Berg Publishers, 2007. Ill. p. 61, fig. 2.5 (black & white).

Brownlee, Peter John. Manifest Destiny / Manifest Responsibility: Environmentalism and the Art of the American Landscape. (exh. cat., Loyola University Museum of Art). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for American Art and Loyola University Museum of Art, 2008. Text pp. 26, 36 (checklist); ill. cover (color, detail), p. 27, fig. 1 (color).

Carden, Mary Paniccia, Sons and Daughters of Self-Made Men: Improvising Gender, Place, Nation in American Literature." Lewisburg, Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press, 2010. Ill. cover (black & white).

Art Across America. (exh. cat., National Museum of Korea, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Terra Foundation for American Art). Seoul, South Korea: National Museum of Korea, 2013. Text pp. 33, 85; ill. p. 33, fig. 6 (color); p. 84 (color).

America: Painting a Nation. (exh. cat., Art Gallery of New South Wales, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, National Museum of Korea, Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Terra Foundation for American Art). Sydney, Australia: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2013. Text pp. 21, 88; ill. p. 20 (color, detail), p. 89, cat. no. 18 (color).

Manthorne, Katherine, ed. California Mexicana: Missions to Murals, 1820-1930. (exh. cat., Laguna Art Museum) Oakland, California: University of Califorania Press, 2017. Text p. 18-19, 82, 138; ill. p. 19 (color), p. 312.

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