Friday, September 13, 2013

Frederic Church, Winslow Homer, and Thomas Moran: Tourism and the American Landscape

From January 30 to May 4, 2008, the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University presented “Frederic Church, Winslow Homer and Thomas Moran: Tourism and the American Landscape.” The exhibition explored the work of three influential artists in the context of the new and growing tourist industry in the United States during the second half of the 19th century.

As railroad and steamship companies opened the nation’s previously inaccessible regions to visitors, landscape artists created images that inspired tourists to travel to distant locales like the White Mountains, the Adirondacks, Yosemite, and Yellowstone. Church, Homer, and Moran traveled extensively in the United States in search of picturesque and sublime landscapes to paint. Their works, along with guidebooks and travel-related photographs and novels, helped to familiarize American audiences with the nation’s scenic wonders.

"Frederic Church, Winslow Homer and Thomas Moran: Tourism and the American Landscape," wass the first museum exhibition to explore the work of three singular and influential artists in the context of tourism and the development of American landscape painting.

These and other landscape artists pioneered the quest for sublime sites as they sought to convey on paper and canvas a divine presence in the marvels of nature. As they worked, the artists recorded, romanticized, edited and sometimes embellished views that became iconic.

Millions of vacationers trudged in their footsteps to the Hudson River Valley, the Adirondacks, the White Mountains, the Maine coast and Yellowstone as the newly created mass media featured the works of these painters and helped to communicate the idea of scenic travel.

By promoting the idea of America as a land of natural purity and beauty, these painters helped forge the nation's sense of itself, even as they fueled Americans' wanderlust.

Church (1826-1900) was instrumental in the Hudson River School of landscape painters. Though committed to the natural sciences, he was also unfailingly concerned with the spiritual dimension of his works.

Frederic Edwin Church, "Sunset over hills, with a body of water in the foreground" 1873

Frederic E. Church (American, 1826-1901), Niagara from Goat Island, Winter, March, 1856, Brush and oil paint on paperboard. Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Gift of Louis P. Church, 1917-4-765-a

Frederic Edwin Church, Landscape, Hudson Valley, 1870

"In the Woods, Hudson, New York" (1865), an oil sketch by Frederic Church.

"Schoodic Peninsula from Mount Desert at Sunrise" (1850-1855) by Frederic Edwin Church.

Boston-born Homer (1836-1910) is best known for his seascapes; his interpretations of man stoically confronting the elements gained an enthusiastic critical reception (one eminent painter commented that his works had an "integrity of nature").

Winslow Homer “Man with a Knapsack,” (detail) 1873, Brush and oil paint on canvas, 22 1/2 x 29 1/2 inches, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 1918-20-1. Photo: Matt Flynn, courtesy Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

The work of Moran (1837-1926), whose vision of the majestic Western landscape was illustrated by his paintings and his pencil and watercolor sketches, is considered critical to the creation of Yellowstone National Park. Mount Moran in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park was named for him.

Thomas Moran (American, 1837-1926), Cliffs of the Rio Virgin, South Utah, 1873, Brush and watercolor, white gouache, over graphite on light brown wove paper. Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Gift of Thomas Moran 1917-17-20)

Thomas Moran, "View of Mountain Range with Double Railway Track.", 1881

Thomas Moran, "Green River, Wyoming Territory", (1879

"Toltec Gorge, Colorado" (1881) by Thomas Moran.

The exhibition, which was organized by Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution in New York, where it was on view May 19, 2006 to October 22, 2006. It included nearly 130 objects, made up of more than 70 painted oil sketches, studio paintings, and drawings, as well as books, stereographs, railroad brochures, and decorative objects.

"Vernal Fall, 300 Feet, Piwyac" (1861–66) by Carleton E. Watkins.

Interesting review here.

The exhibition was accompanied by a 200-page illustrated book with essays by the curators of the exhibition and two outside scholars.