Paintings of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
Colonial Era and the Early Republic
One of the most noticeable facts about early American painting, especially of the colonial era in Georgia, is that very little exists. Philip Georg Friedrich von Reck's watercolors and pencil sketches from the 1730s, now in the Royal Library in Copenhagen, Denmark, are among the earliest works of art about Georgia. His work records the buildings at the New Ebenezer settlement in colonial Georgia, as well as the nearby flora and fauna, and the Creek and Yuchi Indians.
As individual Georgians became involved in national and international politics, they also became patrons for artists or sat for portraits. William Harris Crawford was serving as U.S. secretary of the treasury when he agreed to sit for his own portrait, executed by renowned American entrepreneur and painter Charles Willson Peale, who was working in Washington, D.C. Peale's portrait of Crawford (1818), housed at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, was intended for Peale's museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During his career, Peale created numerous portrait miniatures of other Georgians, including George Walton, a Georgia signer of the Declaration of Independence. Peale's son Raphaelle spent time in Savannah, also executing portraits, often in miniature.
George Cooke, best known for his portraits of southerners, was born in eastern Maryland in 1793. He first visited Georgia in the late spring of 1840, when he painted portraits in Augusta. He then spent the late summer and fall of that year sojourning through the north Georgia mountains, where he created landscape paintings featuring picturesque and sublime elements typical of the northeast's Hudson River School. One, Tallulah Falls (1841), is housed at the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens and depicts L'Eau d'Or, Tempesta, and Hurricane falls at Tallulah Falls, in the northeast Georgia mountains. He also rendered a companion painting, now lost, of Toccoa Falls.
The support of patrons in the antebellum years was not often earned via depictions of the landscape but by portraiture and scenes of everyday life. Besides George Cooke, other portrait painters in Georgia during the antebellum years included Benjamin Bynum; John O'Brien Inman, whose portrait of University of Georgia president Alonzo Church (1854) hangs in the Administration Building on campus; John Maier; and William Harrison Scarborough, among others. Before the Civil War (1861-65), portraits of Georgians were executed in the studios of major towns, such as Savannah, or by itinerant painters traveling to places like Athens, Augusta, and Macon. Many itinerant painters of portraits, in oil or watercolor, featuring wealthy and middle-class Georgians remain unidentified.
Civil War and Late-Nineteenth-Century Period
In the years after the Civil War, some American painters, including William Michael Harnett and John Peto, made careers for themselves by producing ultra-realistic, or trompe l'oeil, paintings. Often
At the end of the nineteenth century, American painters were greatly influenced by the aesthetics of both French Barbizon art and French impressionism. Some American artists, like William de Leftwich Dodge, invested scenes with personal moods, as did their French Barbizon counterparts, while others used bright, impressionist color and noticeable brush strokes. Born in Virginia, Dodge was raised in Europe, where his mother had moved to study painting in 1879. He studied art in Paris, France, and settled in New York City as a painter of murals and landscapes. Dodge spent several summers at Giverny in France, where he created art in the town of the French master Claude Monet. In the United States, Dodge made several trips to Georgia, producing images like Summer Day under Spanish Moss (1910), which is housed at the Greenville County Museum of Art in Greenville, South Carolina.
Renowned landscape painter George Inness initially worked in the meticulous style of the Hudson River School. Inness later became known for his spiritual canvases with subdued tonality and ethereal lighting. He traveled to Europe while still in his twenties and was exposed to the old masters, the French Barbizon landscape painters, and the clear, fresh light of Italy. Influenced by the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish scientist-mystic who interpreted the spiritual realm in terms of the material world, and the American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, Inness created misty scenes of the American landscape. He remarked that he was interested in capturing the spiritual impression of nature rather than the visual details of natural objects. As part of his many sojourns, Inness made trips through Georgia for extended stays in Florida during the 1880s. Paintings like Georgia Pines, Afternoon (1886), in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, and Georgia Pines (1890), housed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., typify Inness's technical interest in color, composition, and brushwork. His paintings of the Georgia landscape parallel his other images of American locales in their symbolic mode of expression derived from a spiritual understanding of nature. George Inness Jr., his son, made the trips with his father and executed poetic landscapes of Georgia as well.
As the nineteenth century drew to a close, early-twentieth-century artists from, relocating to, or visiting Georgia would play vital roles in the history of American impressionism, modernism, and American scene painting.
Randolph Delehanty, Art in the American South: Works from the Ogden Collection (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996).
Donald D. Keyes, George Cooke, 1793-1849, exhibition catalog (Athens: Georgia Museum of Art, 1991).
Mary Levin Koch, "The Romance of American Landscape: The Art of Thomas Addison Richards," Georgia Museum of Art Bulletin 8 (winter 1983).
Donald B. Kuspit et al., Painting in the South, 1564-1980, comp. David S. Bundy, exhibition catalog (Richmond: Virginia Museum, 1983).
National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Georgia, Early Georgia Portraits, 1715-1870 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1975).
Barbara Novak, American Painting of the Nineteenth Century: Realism, Idealism, and the American Experience, 3d ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).
Jessie Poesch, The Art of the Old South: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, and the Products of Craftsmen, 1560-1860 (New York: Knopf, 1983).
Jane Webb Smith et al., Georgia's Legacy: History Charted through the Arts, exhibition catalog (Athens: Georgia Museum of Art, 1985).
Paul Andrew Manoguerra, Georgia Museum of Art
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