St. Louis Mercantile Library


Theodore Kauffman, Westward the Star of Empire
Theodore Kauffman (1814-1896)
Westward the Star of Empire, 1867, oil on canvas
Collection of the St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri - St. Louis

Theodore Kaufmann was born and raised in Germany. He trained in Munich, Hamburg and Dresden as a portrait and history painter and exhibited history paintings in Vienna and Dresden. Kaufmann left Germany after participating in the revolution of 1848. In 1850 he arrived in New York City and established a portrait studio where political cartoonist Thomas Nast was among his students. Kaufmann served in the Civil War as an artist-correspondent for the Union armies and after the war lived primarily in Boston and Washington, D.C. He is best known as a military, historical, and portrait painter, particularly due to his Civil War paintings depicting the heroism of Admiral Farragut and General Sherman.

Kaufmann is listed as an artist in the St. Louis city directories in 1864 and 1865, and he is known to have painted several works on themes similar to Westward the Star of Empire that evince his awareness of key issues in western American political and social life. This work has particular significance when considered in terms of its provenance. James Yeatman, one of the founders of the Mercantile Library, owned this painting and donated it to the Library. Yeatman was one of the city’s leading philanthropists and was active on a local committee to protect Native American rights. In this instance, the patron’s political views easily explain his interest in the particular work of art.

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