Viewing page 8 of 48

This transcription has been completed. Contact us with corrections.



generation ranchers encountered the encroachment of railroads, fences, mortgages, and low beef prices.  The proud cattle-raising "Spaniards" began experimenting with wheat farming, which they formerly despised.  Some even entered the sheep-shearing circuit, upon which they were forced to put aside their rancher finery and appear in brown overalls and red bandanas.

Nevertheless, as late as 1877, James Walker, and English-born artist who [[left margin]] (Fig.2) [[/left margin]] migrated first to Mexico in 1841, and then to California, painted Vaqueros at the Roundup with all the trappings of the supposedly halcyon days of the great California ranches.  Walker's "vaqueros" are stylishly dressed in straight-brimmed Spanish sombreros, trimmed broadcloth suits, and ornamental chaps.  Their graceful Palomino horses sport silver-trimmed bridles and stirrups, tooled leather saddles, and beautifully woven horse clothes.  The foreground figure lassoing the steer sets up the type.  Vast spaces with violet mountains in the distance suggest the huge acreage of the original ranches and provide a backdrop for the large herd of cattle and a great many "vaqueros".  Walker, a rather mediocre painter, used a deliberately romantic stylization which was already an anachronism in the developing realistic style of Western painting.  His glorification of the "Spanish" ranch culture is in line with Helen Hunt Jackson's famous sentimental novel Ramona (1883) which persists as annual theater in Los Angeles to this day.

The actual vaquero of the day presented a far different appearance.  Most vaqueros owned only their own clothes and saddles; they often did not own their own horses. 19  A photograph of a vaquero taken neat Los Angeles in the late 19th century shows a mestizo, a young man with a soft small-brimmed hat, a pair of overalls over a light shirt, a crossed bandana, and very simple functional horse gear. 20  Walker's "vaqueros" are actually dressed as ranch owners who considered themselves "caballeros", literally "horsemen", but understood as "gentlemen".  An unidentified painting from the ranch period reproduced in Hispanic Culture