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John Wesley Powell

John Wesley Powell
Artist
Edmund Clarence Messer, 1842 - 1919
Sitter
John Wesley Powell, 24 Mar 1834 - 23 Sep 1902
Date
1889
Type
Painting
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
Stretcher: 120.3 x 95.9 x 2.5cm (47 3/8 x 37 3/4 x 1")
Frame: 151.1 x 126 x 10.5cm (59 1/2 x 49 5/8 x 4 1/8")
Topic
Personal Attribute\Facial Hair\Mustache
Personal Attribute\Facial Hair\Beard
Home Furnishings\Globe
Artwork\Painting\Landscape
John Wesley Powell: Male
John Wesley Powell: Natural Resources\Explorer
John Wesley Powell: Literature\Writer\Scientific
John Wesley Powell: Education\Educator\Professor\University
John Wesley Powell: Science and Technology\Scientist\Earth scientist\Geologist
John Wesley Powell: Humanities and Social Sciences\Anthropologist\Ethnologist
Portrait
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; transfer from the Smithsonian American Art Museum; gift of Mrs. John Wesley Powell, 1906
Restrictions & Rights
CC0
Object number
NPG.70.21
Exhibition Label
Born Mount Morris, New York
The explorer, geologist, and anthropologist John Wesley Powell helped to shape national policies for the lands and Indigenous communities of the American West. He became a national hero following his scientific expedition through the “Great Unknown” of the Grand Canyon in 1869. Powell’s ideas for sustainable Western agriculture and irrigation met with skepticism at the time, yet his studies served as the foundation for twentieth century water-use policies.
As director of both the U.S. Geological Survey (1881–94) and the Smithsonian Institution’s U.S. Bureau of Ethnology (1879–1902), Powell oversaw the collection and interpretation of artifacts relating to Native peoples and led a major study of North American languages. “Because of the rapid change in the Indian population now in progress,” Powell noted regretfully in 1878, “all habits, customs, and opinions are fading away.” Yet he supported removing Native peoples from their lands and promoted their assimilation into Euro-American culture.
Nacido en Mount Morris, Nueva York
El explorador, geólogo y antropólogo John Wesley Powell influyó en las políticas nacionales tocantes a las tierras y comunidades indígenas del oeste de EE.UU. Su expedición científica de 1869 al territorio desconocido del Gran Cañón lo convirtió en héroe nacional. Aunque sus ideas sobre agricultura sostenible e irrigación en el oeste fueron recibidas con escepticismo, sus estudios formaron la base de la política pública para el uso de aguas en el siglo XX.
Como director del Servicio Geológico (1881–94) y la Oficina de Etnología de la Institución Smithsonian (1879–1902) en EE.UU., Powell supervisó la recolección e interpretación de artefactos relacionados con los pueblos nativos y lideró un importante estudio sobre las lenguas norteamericanas. “Dados los rápidos cambios que hoy sufre la población india”, lamentó en 1878, “todos los hábitos, costumbres y opiniones están desapareciendo”. No obstante, Powell apoyó la extracción de los indígenas de sus tierras y su asimilación a la cultura euroamericana.
Provenance
Mrs. E.D. Powell [Mrs. John W. Powell], Washington; gift 1906 to Smithsonian, accessioned 1910; transferred 1970 to NPG.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
Exhibition
2022 Rehang of Out of Many: Portraits from 1600 to 1900
On View
NPG, East Gallery 120