Museum Minute: Choosing of the Arrow

Sep 10, 2019

Henry Kirke Brown (1814 - 1886). Choosing of the Arrow, 1849. Bronze, 22 x 5.5 x 13.25 inches. Buffalo Bill Center of the West. William E. Weiss Memorial Fund Purchase. 7.16.1

When a visitor enters the Whitney Western Art Museum one sculpture might confuse the visitor. Choosing of the Arrow by Henry Kirke Brown might remind people not of the West, but of a classic European sculpture. But Karen McWhorter, the curator of the museum, said it’s actually the first bronze case made in America in 1849. 

“The West was at one point Michigan, it was western New York before artists and settlers headed west from all directions. It’s a relative term,” said McWhorter. 

She said it's the beginning of a trajectory that can be seen throughout the Whitney. There are many depictions of Native people created by Euro-American artists. 

“It’s important to think about what they were looking, what influences they were drawing on,” said McWhorter. “A lot of those [artists] were European, so as we consider this sculpture in the beginning of the trajectory we can walk through the Whitney armed with a new set of questions as we look at other paintings and sculptures of Natives.” 

McWhorter said there are 20 casts of Choosing of the Arrow and the locations of only nine are known.