This elegant sketch is one of five images from Stewart’s watercolor album showing Stewart exchanging information with Indians. (See also CR# 87A, CR# 84, and Tyler cat. nos. 86A and 88A). Taken together, such images acknowledge the fundamental interdependence of Indians and whites in the fur trade in this period, not just for geographic information, but for knowledge of the whereabouts of enemies, other potential threats, or simply rich supplies of beaver. However, in the context of Stewart’s album, these images also portray Stewart in a central leadership role within the caravan. In addition to being a crew chief, he is entrusted with conducting reconnaissance and able to use his familiarity with Indian people to successfully gather information for his party.
Here Stewart tilts his head, listening to an Indian man who gracefully extends his arm out toward the left edge of the image. The inclusion of foliage draped along the edge of the ground in front of the party suggests they stand on a precipice. This high vantage point helps to convey the sense that Stewart gathers information of far-reaching, geographic scope, and implies that the eponymous Indian guide is giving directions to Stewart’s party.
The artist; Sir William Drummond Stewart, 1839; Frank Nichols Stewart, 1871; [Chapman’s, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1871]; Bonamy Mansell Power; willed to Edward Power, 1900; by descent to Major G.H. Power, Great Yarmouth, England; [Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, NY, 1966]; John B. Bunker; present owner