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Painter in a Savage Land: The Strange Saga of the First European Artist in North America Hardcover – June 24, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (June 24, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400061202
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400061204
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #644,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

About the Author

Miles Harvey is the author of The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime, a national and international bestseller that was named one of the top ten books of 2000 by USA Today and the Chicago Sun-Times. The recipient of a 2004-2005 Illinois Arts Council Award for prose and a 2007-2008 Knight-Wallace fellowship at the University of Michigan, he teaches at Northwestern University and lives in Chicago with his wife and children.

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Customer Reviews

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Very well-researched and written.
Wombley
A powerful, highly recommended art history, this also deserves a place in any collection strong in early American history.
Midwest Book Review
It is a delight to read for any history buff interested in Native American and European history.
Liselotte

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on October 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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 By My name is not my credit card on July 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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 By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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 By LostWorlds on 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 By RNS VINE VOICE on January 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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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