About this artwork
The Ghost Dance, or “Messiah Craze” as the press called it, fused elements of Native American religions and Christianity to express ideas about the resurrection and rejuvenation of indigenous cultures. An assertion of Native American pride and empowerment in the late 1880s, these ceremonies drew the attention of ethnographers and aroused the suspicions of United States government and military officials. After the murders of Big Foot and Sitting Bull and the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890, the Ghost Dance became part of the mythology of the vanishing Indian. In Ralph Blakelock’s murky, deliberately ambiguous composition, the dancing figures appear as ghosts or shadows—insubstantial fragments of a memory or a dream. Indeed, the artist’s understanding of such performances was drawn from accounts in newspapers and magazines. He had not traveled to the West since the early 1870s, more than 20 years before painting this work.
- Currently Off View
- Arts of the Americas
- Ralph Albert Blakelock
- Ghost Dance (The Vision of Life)
- United States (Artist's nationality)
- c. 1895–1897
- Oil on canvas
- Signed, lower right: "R. A. Blakelock"
- 53.7 × 100 cm (21 1/8 × 39 3/8 in.)
- Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection