Painter in a Savage Land: The Strange Saga of the First European Artist in North America

Painter in a Savage Land: The Strange Saga of the First European Artist in North America

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by Miles Harvey
     
 

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In this vibrantly told, meticulously researched book, Miles Harvey reveals one of the most fascinating and overlooked lives in American history. Like The Island of Lost Maps, his bestselling book about a legendary map thief, Painter in a Savage Land is a compelling search into the mysteries of the past. This is the thrilling story of Jacques Le Moyne

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Overview

In this vibrantly told, meticulously researched book, Miles Harvey reveals one of the most fascinating and overlooked lives in American history. Like The Island of Lost Maps, his bestselling book about a legendary map thief, Painter in a Savage Land is a compelling search into the mysteries of the past. This is the thrilling story of Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, the first European artist to journey to what is now the continental United States with the express purpose of recording its wonders in pencil and paint. Le Moyne’s images, which survive today in a series of spectacular engravings, provide a rare glimpse of Native American life at the pivotal time of first contact with the Europeans–most of whom arrived with the preconceived notion that the New World was an almost mythical place in which anything was possible.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Harvey (The Island of Lost Maps) embarks on a fascinating exploration of the obscure life and violent times of Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, who arrived in America in 1564, almost half a century before the English at Jamestown. The drawings he left, virtually forgotten until a few years ago, when they began fetching towering prices at Sotheby's, depict in almost photographic detail a now extinct Native American world. Harvey, his curiosity sparked during a visit to Jacksonville, Fla.—near the site of Le Moyne's doomed colony of French Protestants—uncovered "a tale replete with shipwrecks, mutinies, religious wars, political intrigues, pirate raids, Indian attacks, famines, hurricanes, and mass murders." This book doubles as a narrative of Harvey's own expedition to discover more about his subject and the story of Le Moyne's works in the centuries after his death—and their sad fate at the hands of a New York antiquities dealer. Harvey's volume hits the sweet spot for both adventure buffs and history fans. 4 pages of color illus., b&w illus. throughout. (June 24)

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Kirkus Reviews
Impressive if necessarily incomplete biography of a 16th-century French artist who survived both deprivation and Spanish attacks to produce stunning, controversial images of the New World. Harvey (The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime, 2000) reports that his peripatetic research into the life and work of Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues (1533-88) was alternately exhilarating and frustrating. For nearly every shred of information about Le Moyne that the author was able to coax from history's unyielding fingers, there were much larger pieces he could not get. Still, his discoveries are intriguing. Le Moyne sailed for Florida with a French expedition in 1564, charged with making a visual record of all they encountered. He was better at illustration than cartography, Harvey shows; Le Moyne's fanciful map of Florida is a hoot. Even his astonishing engravings of the local Timucua Indians are controversial, as they occasionally show the Timucua practicing European methods of cultivation or brandishing weapons unknown in North America at the time. The author attributes some of these inaccuracies to Dutch engraver Theodor de Bry, whose copper-plate reproductions alone remain of Le Moyne's Florida work. Harvey devotes much of his text to the brief but bloody Florida period, described in accounts by several survivors of the Spanish slaughter aimed at eliminating France's tentative toehold in the New World. He then shifts focus to Le Moyne's post-Florida career and the rediscovery of his work centuries later. The Calvinist artist fled France during a period of Catholic brutality in the 1580s and moved to the Blackfriars region of London, where he produced a lovely book of plantillustrations and served as consultant to yet another man with vast, ultimately unrealized New World visions, Sir Walter Raleigh. Harvey spends the final pages on those who rescued Le Moyne from obscurity. Insatiable curiosity and fierce pursuit of fact combine to create a graceful exploration of worlds old and new. Agebt: Sloan Harris/ICM

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781588367099
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/24/2008
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
File size:
7 MB

Meet the Author

Miles Harvey is the author of The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime, a national and international bestseller that was named one of the top ten books of 2000 by USA Today and the Chicago Sun-Times. The recipient of a 2004-2005 Illinois Arts Council Award for prose and a 2007-2008 Knight-Wallace fellowship at the University of Michigan, he teaches at Northwestern University and lives in Chicago with his wife and children.


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Painter in a Savage Land: The Strange Saga of the First European Artist in North America 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KYNittanyLion More than 1 year ago
I bought this at Fort Caroline National Memorial during a chance visit on a business trip. After a tour of the site I was browsing the bookstore for a history and the attendant recommended Painter in a Savage Land. This was history as story telling focused on an unknown (outside the art world) character, who played a role in a historical milestone (first European settlement attempt on mainland US near Jacksonville FL) of which most history buffs are probably unaware. There is a good account of the French attempt to settle at La Caroline and a glimpse into the first contact with the Timicula people of Florida. Where this book brought added enjoyment was where the author explored intersecting or tangential stories (a la Connections), bringing in other notables from English, French and American history (from Raliegh and Mary Queen of Scots, Admiral Coligny and even touching on Lincoln, Churchill and Hitler)leading into the world of art and embroidery and the establishment of the Ft. Caroline and Timicula Preserve by a well respected US congressman. Well written and engaging and displays the author's enthusiam for the mystery of his subject and the apparent importance of his work.