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Painter in a Savage Land: The Strange Saga of the First European Artist in North America [Kindle Edition]

Miles Harvey
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $11.99
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

In this vibrantly told, meticulously researched book, Miles Harvey reveals one of the most fascinating and overlooked lives in American history. Like The Island of Lost Maps, his bestselling book about a legendary map thief, Painter in a Savage Land is a compelling search into the mysteries of the past. This is the thrilling story of Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, the first European artist to journey to what is now the continental United States with the express purpose of recording its wonders in pencil and paint. Le Moyne’s images, which survive today in a series of spectacular engravings, provide a rare glimpse of Native American life at the pivotal time of first contact with the Europeans–most of whom arrived with the preconceived notion that the New World was an almost mythical place in which anything was possible.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* From a doomed French fort on what became the site for Jacksonville, Florida, to the streets of Paris and London, where Huguenots and Lutherans were burned at the stake, to the auction rooms of Sotheby’s, the dramatic story of the long-lost artist Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues is a veritable tale of nine lives. Historian Harvey (The Island of Lost Maps, 2000) marvels at the “epic strangeness” of his subject’s complicated life story. Le Moyne was the first artist sent to North America when he set sail from Le Havre in 1564 with 300 men sent to stake a claim for France in Florida but fated to suffer starvation and violent death. Le Moyne not only survived and returned home; he also managed to create marvelously stylized drawings of the tragically doomed Timucuan people. He then escaped religious persecution in France and found sanctuary in London, where he became a leading botanical artist and advisor to Walter Raleigh. It’s one astonishing discovery after another as Harvey retrieves the buried truth about Le Moyne and chronicles the nearly miraculous preservation of his work. With hugely entertaining side journeys, energetic analysis, and a diabolical surprise ending, Harvey’s groundbreaking, fun-to-read biography blows the dust off significant swathes of history and makes for a rousing read. --Donna Seaman


"Inspired, beautiful, and wholly original. Miles Harvey is an archeologist of forgotten stories, a master of finding astounding characters folded into the crevices of withered documents. In Painter in a Savage Land, he has breathed life into a thrilling and unlikely tale that, in the end, connects us all." --Robert Kurson, author of Shadow Divers and Crashing Through

"Like some lovable sleuth of the esoteric--a sort of scholarly Columbo--Miles Harvey has a way of stumbling onto intriguing historical tales entirely missed by others. With equal parts rigor and wonder, he has transported us to a surprising dawn-world when a bewildered Europe was making its first contacts with a bizarre and vulnerable continent." --Hampton Sides, author of Blood and Thunder and Ghost Soldiers

"A fantastic brew of art, exploration and exploitation. Miles Harvey's story bristles with surprises on every page." --Laurence Bergreen, author of Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu and Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe

"Miles Harvey has outdone himself with this absorbing account of the life and work of a mysterious French artist who was the first European to record visual impressions of North America. Harvey's investigation into the curious life, swashbuckling adventures and enduring legacy of Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues is appealing on a number of compelling levels, adeptly done with style, elegance and a sure sense of story." --Nicholas A. Basbanes, author of A Gentle Madness, Among the Gently Mad and A Splendor of Letters

"Insatiable curiosity and fierce pursuit of fact combine to create a graceful exploration of worlds old and new." --Kirkus Reviews

"A fascinating exploration of the obscure life and violent times of Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues. … Harvey's volume hits th...

Product Details

  • File Size: 4590 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (June 24, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001B35IA2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #919,320 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful, highly recommended art history October 12, 2008
PAINTER IN A SAVAGE LAND; THE STRANGE SAGA OF THE FIRST EUROPEAN ARTIST IN NORTH AMERICA is a top pick for any art history collection: it offers a well-researched yet lively survey of one Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, the first European artist to travel around the U.S. capturing its wonders I pencil and paint. In 1564 he and three hundred other French Protestants landed off the coast of Florida - he was one of the few to live the experience, returning home to create dozens of illustrations of America's Native Americans. A powerful, highly recommended art history, this also deserves a place in any collection strong in early American history.

Diane C. Donovan
California Bookwatch
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent storytelling July 24, 2008
Miles Harvey once again provides an example of excellent storytelling; not only does he give life to an important but relatively unknown period in our collective history, but he excels at crafting a story that subtly ties the past to the present.
I like his exhaustive research, and how he can stick to the facts while exploring possibilities and make relevant the lives of people who previously felt so distant.
His treatment of indigenous Terra Floridians speaks to his ability to examine people and places from more than one perspective. He knows how to engage a reader!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling & dramatic saga of an accidental adventurer December 23, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Jacque le Moyne de Morgues, Miles Harvey ultimately concludes, may never have intended to lead quite as adventurous life as he did. Still, given just how dramatic that life proved to be -- he escaped death narrowly on countless occasions during his travels in the New World, only to flee his home country and settle in England to avoid religious persecution, churning out pioneering art work along the way -- it's astonishing that le Moyne is so unknown outside a narrow circle of conoisseurs and collectors of his botanical prints.

Even Harvey stumbled across le Moyne by accident, while promoting his previous book The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime (which tells an equally obscure but fascinating tale albeit in a more idiosyncratic way). In Florida, a chance encounter makes him aware of a real-life story that lies behind the early map of Florida that illustrated his first book: the saga of France's efforts to found a permanent settlement in the New World -- Fort Caroline, now long since vanished -- and to the artist who accompanied them, Jacques Le Moyne. The handful of artistic works that he produced of Florida's native inhabitants as well as its flaura and fauna are not only the earliest record of region, but a tribute to a now-vanished civilization. Within decades of le Moyne's capturing their images, the Spanish had converted them by force to Catholicism and many were dead of disease, leaving their traditions to vanish into thin air.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good overall but needed more original research March 23, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This was a very well written book about a very interesting man, Jacques Le Moyne, the first European artist in the Americas who made the earliest depictions of Native Americans seen in the Old World. As such his art and journals provide a wealth of information about the Native American tribes as they existed at first contact with Europeans. The book also focuses more on the action-adventure story of the battle between the Spanish and French which culminated with the Spanish massacring most of the inhabitants at this first French settlement although Le Moyne managed to escape and get back to Europe. The only real issue I had with this book is that it tended to defer to modern academics about the location of Fort Caroline and the Indian tribes which the French interacted in. Had the author done even some basic research on his own he would realize that the descriptions don't match Florida at all but instead match tribes in Georgia. Although Fort Caroline may have been located in modern Jacksonville, Florida the May River was not the St.Johns in Florida but instead the Altamaha in Georgia. This river flows from the Appalachian Mountains just as Le Moyne described it. Perhaps the French were afraid their dispatches might be intercepted by the Spanish and purposefully gave confusing and conflicting facts about the location of the fort but the description of gold mining Indians in the Appalachian Mountains matches only one rivershed: the Oconee-Altamaha River system that does indeed flow through the gold territory of the Appalachian Mountains.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is a book that I thought no one would ever have the knowledge, language skills or sheer perseverance to write. As such, I am amazed that Miles Harvey, not only took this project on, but has completed it in such a masterful manner.

Having grown up in Jacksonville, Florida I was aware of Charles Bennett's obsession with documenting attempts by the French and Spanish in the 1560's to colonize and claim Florida. He knew that both countries had expended considerable time, effort and riches to try and establish a foothold in northeast Florida, all to gain access to and protect the Gulf Stream shipping lanes and expand westward to claim the gold, silver and other riches believed to exist in these unknown lands. Bennett, a World War II hero who served more than 40-years in Congress, wrote a number of books on the clashes between France and Spain in Florida (most notably, "Settlement of Florida"), and, - almost single-handedly, using his own personal funds and congressional influence - helped to establish the Fort Caroline National Historic Memorial.

There are many reasons as to why the French-Spanish conflict in Florida has been neglected and Miles Harvey is a brave scholar to pick-up where Bennett and only a few other historians have dared to tread.

First and foremost is the problem that historians have typically exhibited difficulty overcoming the "winner writes the history" context of British and Puritan, Quaker and Calvinist influence on writers of Florida/American history. Second, there is the enormous complexity of this era because the primary sources exist in four languages (English, French, Dutch and Spanish) and are found only in obscure libraries and archives in Europe - if they still exist at all.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing - Enlightening - Historical
An interesting view on early American history, shifting the glory to the common people, the true survivors. Well written and Enlightening!
Published 15 days ago by Pam@jpr
5.0 out of 5 stars The first European colony in what would become the USA
Very well-researched and written. As an aside, even if the ruins of the original Fort Caroline are never located, the area surrounding the reputed site is one of outstanding... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Wombley
5.0 out of 5 stars I love history that is written in a novel type way, and this is.
Great pictures, and a really little known part of our history. I had always wondered who really did those old old pictures of First Americans and I still wonder how accurate they... Read more
Published 22 months ago by fj
5.0 out of 5 stars A French Painter reports on Florida Natives in 1564
Much of what we know about the Timucua Indians living in North Central Florida at the time the Spaniards arrived in the early 1500's is based on the sketches and descriptions by... Read more
Published on January 4, 2012 by Liselotte
5.0 out of 5 stars A Long Overdue Biography
The story of Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues is finally told, and in gripping fashion. Hired as illustrator and cartographer for the Ribault/Laudonniere expedition to Florida in 1564,... Read more
Published on October 9, 2009 by Stephen Parrish
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Book on a Neglected Artist and Colony
Miles Harvey had his work cut out for him. While scholars recognized the importance of Jacques Le Moyne's art from a historical perspective, the artists himself has remained lost... Read more
Published on August 17, 2009 by Kevin M. Derby
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