Landscape painting in all the Americas, a touring exhibition and an inquiry Artistic representation of human interaction with the land has a long history in the Americas. It spans more than thirty thousand years, from the earthworks and pictographs of ancient indigenous cultures to the land art of the 1960s and 1970s to contemporary photographs of the terrible beauty of environmental destruction. It was during the early years of the nineteenth century, as emerging settler nations across the hemisphere gained and asserted their independence, that landscape painting began to forge a broader vision of the Americas. Artists seeking to respond to and depict distinctive topographies and natural wonders produced unique pictorial representations that nonetheless shared an ideological and aesthetic orientation to the land, as well as artistic techniques for depicting it.
In one of his most famous works, the esteemed art historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner sought to define “The Englishness of English Art.” If anyone were to under take a comparable inquiry into the Danishness of Danish art, the painter Vilhelm Hammershøi could well stand as the palmary embodiment of the thing in question. His small, reticent, manically controlled paintings achieve that prim order, that almost morbid inwardness, that foreigners, at least, are apt to associate with the land of Hamlet and Kierkegaard.
Julia Margaret Cameron was almost twenty-four when Louis-Jacques-Mondé Daguerre announced the invention of photography at the Académie des Sciences in Paris in 1839. But it wasn’t until she was forty-eight—another lifetime later—that she would fully take up the medium herself. The catalyst was a Christmas gift from her daughter Julia and Julia’s husband in 1863.
Collecting and researching American art have been avocations of mine since my student days at the University of Pittsburgh in the 1950s, when I commuted to school through the neighborhoods of the Hill District and past the belching steel mills on both sides of the Monongahela River. Those are fond memories still—fifty years after leaving Pittsburgh for New England—so when a group of ten drawings of those neighborhoods and mills surfaced on eBay, with inscriptions dating to March 1945 by a student at the city's Schenley High School, I acquired them. My reasons were initially nostalgic, but I also wondered if research might show that the "Andy" on the first sketch could possibly be Andy Warhol, who graduated from Schenley High in 1945.