[Bent's Fort on the Santa Fe Trail, Colorado Territory]

KENSETT, John Frederick (1816-1872)

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[Based upon sketches of Bent's Fort in southeastern Colorado in 1870, this drawing probably accomplished in New York City. ca. 1870-1872]. Pencil on buff paper, 10 5/8 x 14 3/4 inches. Inscribed in pencil by Kensett lower right margin: "Bent's Fort. Arkansas River. Colorado Ter. July 13th 186[?]. This trading post built in 1832. Now used as a S.O.M. + Ex station." A modern pencil inventory no.: "WCA-2800 (b)", reverse. Signed with Kensett's interlocking JFK monogram, lower right image (at the edge of the grass). Two short closed tears at the extreme edges, and a tiny chip to the lower right-hand corner, not affecting the image. Matted and framed. Excellent displayable condition. A recently discovered John Frederick Kensett drawing of Bent's Fort John Frederick Kensett's very fine and finished pencil drawing of Bent's Fort on the Arkansas River in southeastern Colorado Territory, depicts the once important and prosperous trading post during its last commercial phase, as a stagecoach station for the Barlow-Sanderson Overland Mail & Express Company on its Kansas City to Santa Fe route. The surviving structures of the adobe stronghold (substantially destroyed by an explosion in 1849) are seen in a deteriorating state, barnyard animals roaming the grounds, the walls and gates falling, tended by a lone agent. Kensett made on-the-spot sketches of the Fort during his 1870 trip to the Colorado Territory with fellow Hudson River School painters Worthington Whittredge and Sanford Robinson Gifford. That "particularly productive trip" (John Wilmerding) resulted in several important and well-known paintings of Colorado, notably Kensett's "Landscape, Bergen Park" and Whittredge's "On the Cache La Poudre," both now in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Bent's Fort drawing (misdated by Kensett, as is the case with many of his drawings and paintings) was almost certainly completed in his New York City studio, and constitutes one of only four extant Kensett drawings of Colorado, and one of the very last images of the original Bent's Fort. Bent's Fort was constructed in 1833 by Bent, St. Vrain & Company, the largest fur trading and commercial firm in the Southwest. The company developed a complex business network as part of the Santa Fe trade, selling blankets from New Mexico and buffalo robes from the Plains, driving Mexican sheep through to Missouri, trading in horses and mules, and trading goods to Indians. Just on the American side of the then boundary with Mexico, it was in a perfect location to serve as a trade nexus. At the same time it served as a base for U.S. government exploring and military expeditions such as those of Kearney, Dodge, Fremont, and Abert. With the end of the Mexican War and the American annexation of New Mexico, the fort lost its strategic significance, and the proprietors were struck a serious blow when the senior partner, Charles Bent, the provisional American governor of New Mexico, was murdered in Taos in 1847. In 1849 his brother, William Bent, offered to sell the fort to the United States, but, perceiving the government's very low counter-offer as an insult, set fire to his stores of gun powder, destroying many of the buildings, and abandoned the fort. From 1849 through 1861, Bent's Fort was unoccupied and allowed to deteriorate. Barlow-Sanderson operated the stagecoach station from 1861 until 1881, after which settlers in the region began cutting away adobe from the fort for use in their own buildings. An Arkansas River flood in 1921 completed the destruction of the few remaining ruins. Bent's Fort has since been reconstructed upon its original foundations by the National Park Service and designated a National Historic Site. Very few images of Bent's Fort survive, despite its key role in the Santa Fe and fur trades at their height. A detailed plan and view of the fort in James W. Abert's report of his 1845 western expedition are the best known depictions of the fort, and these, along. Bookseller Inventory #

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Title: [Bent's Fort on the Santa Fe Trail, Colorado...

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