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18. EATON, Joseph Horace. Cañoncito Bonito: [Title in ink in Eaton’s hand on verso of image] “`Cañoncito Bonito’ Navajo country N. Mex Site of `Fort Defiance’ Looking South to the Calitis Mountain” [in pencil at right] “5400”; [manuscript title in ink, unidentified hand (William Watts Hart Davis) on original paper label mounted to later paper]: “Cañoncito Bonito Nabajo Country, New Mexico, Site of Fort Defiance | looking South to the Calitis Mountain. 1855. N.Y. Eaton.” N.p. [Arizona], 1855. Original watercolor and graphite sketch. 11.9 x 18.8 cm. Except for faint marginal mat burn, very fine. Watercolor affixed to later paper. Provenance: Direct descendant of William Watts Hart Davis.

     Depicted is a landscape with structures and U.S. flag in middle distance, the whole surrounded by mountains. The location depicted is in present-day Arizona at a Navajo reservation, at the mouth of Canyon Bonito about seven miles north of Window Rock, Arizona, and twenty-five miles northwest of Gallup, New Mexico. This image appears in Davis’ book as “Cañoncito Bonito” (p. 403), with more detail.

     This watercolor and the following entries are the original art work from which engravings were made to accompany William Watts Hart Davis’ El Gringo; or New Mexico and Her People (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1857), one of the earliest full-length books on New Mexico in English. These watercolors are historically important, early images of New Mexico and Arizona made by an eyewitness. Eaton’s paintings are unpretentious, on-the-spot images, which in their simplicity beautifully document the West and Borderlands beyond mythology or drama. As early images of the Southwest, these watercolors rank with the U.S. iconography of Abert, Emory, and Bartlett.

     This art work was commissioned by William Watts Hart Davis (1820-1910), who at the time was active in the government of the newly established Territory of New Mexico, in which he served as U.S. district attorney, attorney general, secretary of the Territory, superintendent of public buildings, superintendent of Indian affairs, and acting governor. He also published the Santa Fe Gazette in Spanish and English for two and a half years. Prior to his New Mexican sojourn, Davis left Harvard after his first semester to join the Mexican-American War, enlisted in the First Regiment of the Massachusetts Infantry commanded by Colonel Caleb Cushing, and mustered out as a captain on July 19, 1848. Davis later went on to achieve a measure of military fame in the Civil War (breveted Brigadier General for meritorious service during the siege of Charleston). Davis eventually became an important American philanthropist and historian.

     Artist Eaton (1815-1896), one of the few trained artists who worked in the Southwest U.S. and Mexico during two decades of pivotal changes in the Borderlands, graduated from West Point in 1835. He then served on the frontier, taught infantry tactics at West Point, and fought in the Mexican-American War, where he served as General Zachary Taylor's aide-de-camp. During the Civil War he was a paymaster and was brevetted Brigadier General. Eaton had a long career as mapmaker and artist in the Borderlands. He created maps for the survey published in 1838 to prepare for removal of obstructions from the Sabine River in order to facilitate navigation. In 1846 he prepared the official U.S. Army maps for the Mexican-American War battles fought on Texas soil, and contributed to the illustrations in W. S. Henry’s Campaign Sketches of the War with Mexico (1847). Eaton was also involved in the creation of what has been called the second most important map relating to the Mexican-American War, A Correct Map of the Seat of War in Mexico. Being a Copy of Genl. Arista’s Map, published in 1847 and associated with John Disturnell, J. Goldsborough Bruff, and Mariano Arista.

     Other known images from the series of Eaton’s watercolors for Davis’ book El Gringo are documented in The West Explored: The Gerald Peters Collection of Western American Art (1988; see Plate 7, Pueblo of Taos, New Mexico, South Pueblo and Plate 8, Santa Fe, New Mexico). ($16,000-22,000)

Sold. Hammer: $16,000.00; Price Realized: $18,800.00

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