I spent a few hours at The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana. My husband is a sort of pocket expert about Custer’s Last Stand so it was a place we simply had to go if we got within three hundred miles of it.
Stephen did show me over the battlefield. Standing on the actual ground makes many contemporary descriptions clearer. Western plains are deceptive. They often look flat from a distance, but turn out to be steep and hilly. People, houses, factories hide in what looks like an unobstructed view to the horizon in a all directions.
The battlefield is like that. From the ridge you have the illusion that you can see all, but you can’t. And the land leading up to the ridge is steep and hard. But my painting is not of where Custer made his famous last stand. Instead, I painted view from where his Lieutenant Reno was pinned down. Reno retreated up the gulches after meeting the Indians in the valley below. The hills are probably much the same, but the river below snakes through a flat valley and it has moved over time. And of course that fields and ranches now occupying the land came after the battle.
Despite the graves, the markers of where Custer’s men fell and where Indians fell, the land itself remains beautiful.
Painted on Arches cold-pressed 140# paper with phthalo blue, cobalt blue, cerulean blue, quinacridone deep read rose, burnt sienna, quinacridone gold and raw sienna.
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