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The Sharpshooter

The Sharpshooter, 1970, Arthur Mitchell (American, 1889–1977), Oil on canvas, Gift of Sheila and Alvin Ukman, 1974.17.10.

Arthur Mitchell was famous for his Western pulp magazine covers—dime novels printed on cheap “pulp” paper, popular from the late 1800s to 1950s, and known for their sensational cover art and stories. The Sharpshooter typifies this art—a stoic cowboy poised against a vast landscape shoots at a target in the distance. The painting’s energy is palpable with its bright colors, and the tracer trail of a bullet literally streaking across the canvas.

Pulp novels and their imagery told entertaining tales about the “Wild West,” but also played an important role in solidifying frontier myths, such as stereotypes of masculinity and race.