A richly layered painting by the renowned early 20th century American illustrator Arthur Ignatius Keller depicting the climactic romantic scene from Emerson Hough’s bestselling 1909 novel 54-40 or Fight.
Keller was a prominent artist whose work was sought after by many of the leading authors of the day. He was known for his mastery of light, texture and feeling, and this rare frontispiece painting displays his stunning prowess and talent.
A prominent society painter, Keller’s eye-catching portraits of Victorian maidens were coveted alongside Earl Christy and Harrison Fisher’s. Comes framed in a classic period quartersawn oak frame. Purchase includes a copy of the published illustration featured in 54-40 or Fight.
The phrase “54-40 or Fight” hearkens back to the Oregon boundary dispute between Britain and the United States which raged from 1818 to 1846.
After frequent standoffs and attempts to determine who had claim to which portions of the upper Northwest, James Polk (at that point a Presidential Candidate) in 1844, appealing to expansionist sentiment, asserted that the U.S. had a valid claim to the entire Oregon Country up to to latitude 54-40’N.
The turmoil gave rise to slogans like “Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!”. The historical romance by Emerson Hough was a bestselling novel in 1909 when it was published, though as Keller’s evocative illustration shows, it was more romance than history.