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The American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in 1841 that landscape paintings “should give the suggestion of a fairer creation than we know.” This sense of landscape as a genre that subjects the natural world to the improvements of the artist’s hand dates to the earliest use of the term in English in the seventeenth century and persists today. Be they sublime, beautiful or picturesque, landscapes exist to please and to offer refuge to the eye and mind. But what happens when a landscape presents not a fairer creation but a degraded terrain? When a landscape is ugly rather than beautiful? What do we, as scholars of landscape art in the Americas, do with landscapes that exist radically against the grain? This lecture considers the history of what might be called the “anti-landscape” in the nineteenth century: images that defy the expectations of the genre by presenting views of nature’s undoing by humans, ravaged and ruinous prospects instead of delightful natural scenes. In exploring possible art-historical responses to such imagery, the lecture suggests that nineteenth-century anti-landscapes offer something like an anti-theory of landscape, one essential for rethinking the landscape genre as well as the relationship between nature and the human—the proverbial figure in the landscape—in the Anthropocene.
Alan Trachtenberg has observed that “nothing else in the nineteenth century seemed as vivid and dramatic a sign of modernity as the railroad.” Yet for all its vividness and drama, when it came to landscape painting, the railroad proved to be a difficult, indeed almost impossible, subject.
Although railroads began operating in the United States in the 1820s, it was only in the 1840s that they first put in an appearance in landscape paintings that today fall into the category fine or high art.
What made the railroad such a problematic subject for landscape painting? My answer follows in part Leo Marx’s argument in his celebrated study, The Machine in the Garden, Technology and the Pastoral Ideal (1964). Marx described how Hawthorne, Thoreau, Emerson, Melville and other nineteenth-century American writers developed literary forms to represent, in Marx’s words, “the new industrial power.” Similarly, I argue that American landscapists struggled to develop pictorial means to represent the railroad. The process involved manipulating and altering established landscape painting conventions in order to align the forms of landscape with, or, in a few instances, against, modernizing ideologies. My analysis proceeds via a close examination of works by Thomas Cole, Fitz Henry Lane, Asher B. Durand, Jasper Cropsey, Martin Johnson Heade, George Inness, and José María Velasco.
This paper will examine the important and underexplored tradition of landscape representation – the Schuylkill River School— not an organized society of artists, but rather a movement of landscape art that developed around painters affiliated with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia from the Declaration of Independence in 1776 through the years of the Early American Republic. The global image of a progressive, prosperous, industrial United States in the first quarter of the nineteenth century would come to be defined by this landscape school, which would go on to have a profound effect on Thomas Cole who is now known as the “Father of the Hudson River School” – often erroneously called the first school of painting in the United States. During the time Cole studied at PAFA in the early 1820s, he was influenced by the work of Thomas Birch, whose American landscapes he admired at PAFA’s annual exhibitions. The paintings of Birch created an explosion of popular images of the Schuylkill River that would travel around the world. For example, scenes of the Fairmount Waterworks depicted in paintings shown at PAFA’s annual exhibitions were recreated as prints and transferred onto tableware produced in Bohemia, China, and Great Britain. Birch’s Fairmount Water Works (1821), remarkably executed in minute detail, shows picturesque beauty and industry in harmony along the Schuylkill River, including details of the new city waterworks, Schuylkill River canal, the first steamship to travel up the waterway, and the beauty of Lemon Hill Mansion perched on the banks above the river. It was this painting and its permutations in print, ceramic and more, that brought human and nature into aesthetic harmony along the Schuylkill and served as the icon of the landscape of the early Republican United States until it was displaced by the sublimity of Niagara Falls after the completion of the Eerie Canal, another industrial marvel, after 1825.
During the nineteenth-century, the territory of the United States expanded and consequently reimagined the boundaries of the nation. While many Americans travelled to the West, a select few ventured south to industrialize and establish the state of Florida. In 1845, Florida was admitted to the Union. This action solidified its value for the country. Encompassing a unique environment, foreign to elite Americans of the period, contemporary perceptions of Florida were grounded in nineteenth-century actions and events. The increase in commerce was a direct result of the profound impact Henry Morrison Flagler (1830-1913) had upon the region.
Central to Flagler’s process of development was a heightened association with the arts and more specifically, landscape painting. This concept is best articulated through Flagler’s professional relationship and personal friendship with noted nineteenth-century American landscape artist, Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904). The origins of commerce in the region created a profitable and aesthetically beneficial bond that endorsed the ideal Floridian scenery and simultaneously created a site of human exchange, intervention, and commerce.
While much scholarship has focused upon either Flagler or Heade as individuals, localization of their intertwined relationship has yet to be investigated beyond superficial studies. This paper examines paintings by Heade, images of nineteenth-century Florida, and the advertising culture of the period to substantiate the value of this relationship. This paper aims to substantiate that the goals of Flagler and the talents of Heade were invaluable to the development of the region and have consequently shaped modern perceptions regarding landscape in America. The Ponce de Leon Hotel’s connection to Heade’s Great Florida Sunset, ca. 1887, and his View from Fern-Tree Walk—Jamaica, ca. 1887, marketed and validated the conception of the “ideal Florida” which wealthy Americans continue to champion to this day.
A finales del siglo XIX, la fotografía de paisaje en Colombia contribuyó a crear las primeras imágenes de la región. Su impacto en la manera de representar el espacio, comparado con técnicas pictóricas, implicó la creación de una imagen que reconociera una unidad visual. En la presente investigación se ha realizado un análisis de cerca de 800 fotografías de diversos acopios documentales referentes al paisaje en Colombia; gracias a ello se ha podido interpretar cómo a través del desarrollo de estas imágenes, y de su popularización a través de medios como la tarjeta postal, se impulsó el desarrollo de emblemas simbólicos de lugar. Siguiendo de cerca la idea de unidad desde el pensamiento de Georg Simmel en sus ensayos sobre el conflicto, profundizando a través de la noción de cliché de Gilles Deleuze en su seminario sobre pintura y tomando el mismo concepto desde la obra de la lingüista Ruth Amossy, analizaremos cómo en Colombia a través de las adaptaciones visuales de la fotografía el paisaje adquirió la forma visual que le permitió transformar un lugar en un ícono.
Recent historical research, such as the work of Habeeb Akande, has shown that West African Muslim slaves– known as Mâles– played a critical role in the socio-political landscape of 19th century Brazil, a nation shaped heavily by the transatlantic slave trade. This diasporic community is credited for mobilizing key slave rebellions, such as the 1835 Mâle Revolt of Bahia– the largest slave resistance effort in the Americas, fostered by the ability to communicate among fellow Mâles in Arabic. Muslim slaves and freemen left a strong mark on Brazilian visual culture and architecture in the form of talismans and print culture, and featured in the works of French illustrator Jean-Baptiste Debret, who depicted African Muslim men and women in his landmark Voyages Pittoresques et Historique du Bresil, printed between 1816 and 1831. Similarly, the controversial Harvard-based biologist Agassiz and his wife recorded drawings of Muslim women in 1865. While these illustrations exported representations of West African Muslims in Brazil for consumption by a North American and European public, Mâle descendants also transferred their own image of collective identity in the form of transnational mosque architecture, constructed by members of the diasporic community upon the return of West African free slaves from Brazil to the Bight of Benin in the early 1830s. By focusing on 19th century case studies such as the work of Debret and the Shitta Bey mosque of Lagos, this paper traces images crafted of and by Mâle Muslims in print and architectural form across the landscape of Brazil and back to Benin via a transatlantic perspective.
The sweeping panoramic view of the Brazilian coffee plantation Fazenda Montalto [Fig. 1], painted by Nicolau Facchinetti in 1881, highlights a productive slave plantation set within the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro state. The fazenda (farm) scene was commissioned by the estate’s owner amid the dual crises of widespread environmental destruction in the form of deforestation and soil erosion, and the impending abolition of slavery in Brazil. Despite these threats to the survival of the fazenda, the artist framed the denuded forest, now planted with coffee trees, and a small workforce of African slaves within a monumental landscape that optimistically suggests future expansion into the frontier and the continuance of the plantation’s operations. Illuminated by sunlight, the vast landscape of rolling hills stretching to the distant horizon provides a rich and attainable environment for development.
This paper will explore representations of nineteenth-century Brazilian coffee production, highlighting fazenda images created amid increasing demand for coffee from the Global North. Employing ecocritical analysis of such artworks, I argue that images of coffee fazendas reveal contemporaneous attitudes toward land ownership through celebratory scenes of well managed cultivated property, yet also indicate environmental damage and deforestation. Lands represented as entirely cleared or planted with strict rows of coffee trees are not natural variations in the forestation of the mountains, but rather signal a human intervention in the landscape. This paper furthers the study of American landscape representation through examinations of cultivated (rather than wild) land reliant upon slave labor, and considers the social and environmental impacts of this commodification of nature.
El cambio de gusto en el arte de jardinería en Europa en el siglo XVIII y XIX, en parte influenciado por las ideas de Alexander von Humboldt y su Pflanzengeographie, así como el creciente interés por las plantas “exóticas” por parte de coleccionistas, jardines botánicos y viveros europeos, condujeron a una mayor demanda las mismas. Para la búsqueda de estas plantas y a raíz del afán con el que algunos coleccionistas querían obtenerlas, se encargaron a los plant hunters o Pflanzenjäger, cazadores de plantas profesionales, para recolectarlas en su lugar de origen en diferentes partes del mundo y enviarlas a Europa. Entre Europa y Latinoamérica se establecieron circuitos de comercio de plantas, principalmente de orquídeas, con actores como los jardines botánicos, los plant hunters, así como artistas de la jardinería y jardineros. Algunos de estos actores llegaron incluso a establecerse de manera temporal o permanente en países latinoamericanos y a participar en proyectos de parques y jardines, como es el caso de Wilhelm Kalbreyer en Colombia. Esta ponencia se enfocará en reconstruir algunos casos específicos de estos circuitos internacionales de comercio de plantas, basándose principalmente en informes de viaje, revistas especializadas de jardinería y correspondencia. El objetivo consiste en identificar actores y conexiones, pero también en revisar de manera crítica algunos de estos informes que denotan una postura colonialista, con la que se llega incluso a destruir la naturaleza nativa en busca de una planta específica que va a ser admirada como naturaleza “exótica” en otro contexto cultural.
The long nineteenth century brought many changes to people living in Latin America. Decades of foreign scientific exploration in the region, sowed the idea of introspection in the minds of the locals. As art stopped being subservient to religious and royal interests, artists turned to their surroundings to observe and ponder upon what it meant to be a new, independent nation. In Ecuador two landscape artists who were not from the capital, Rafael Troya and Luis A. Martínez, transmitted their patriotic and political ideas through a positivist perspective, characteristic of their intellectual milieu. Their empirical approach to landscape reveals the indelible legacy of the regional explorations of Alexander von Humboldt and Frederic E. Church, yet it evidences their desire to both distinguish themselves from others and prosper as a nation.
This paper argues that these two Ecuadorian artists highlighted the fundamental role of the working class in rural communities and of education in taming nature and thus “civilizing” the country. By depicting either men actively working the land in which they inhabit, or plowed parcels next to rural sheds these artists depicted landscapes that resembled the nation’s march to progress. Analyzing Troya and Martínez’s work through a social and political perspective reveals how they complicated the usual narrative of the “primeval” lands, into one that exposed agrarian intervention.
In 1860 the surgeon Dr. Isaac Israel Hayes set out on an expedition to the Arctic that produced the most successful series of photographic images of the region to date. Hayes’ photographs were translated into woodcuts and engraved as illustrations in his 1867 book The Open Polar Sea. They were also published by T.C. Roche in the form of albumen-silver-print and glass stereoviews, allowing for them to be widely distributed and seen in slide lectures he gave. Hayes’ expedition was also memorialized in Frederic Edwin Church’s painting 1865 Aurora Borealis. In 1869 Hayes returned to the Arctic along the Boston-based photographers John L. Dunmore and George Critcherson and the landscape painter William Bradford. The purpose of the expedition was not to reach the North Pole. It was solely artistic and Dunmore and Critcherson produced hundreds of glass-plate negatives to assist Bradford in his painting. 141 of the photographs were also reproduced as albumen silver prints in Bradford’s expensive tome The Arctic Regions.
This paper explores how American explorers and artists presented the Arctic visually in photographs, prints, and paintings. As a visually foreign site the Arctic was ideal for photographers and artists. Its landscape could be documented, but also interpreted and embellished. While paintings and many of the prints offered a sublime rendering of the Arctic, the photographs both simultaneously reinforced and deconstructed it. This paper carefully examines and problematizes the intersection of art of science through the prints and photographs of the Arctic.
The legendary career Simón Bolívar is often understood in terms of the vast distances traveled by the liberator as he pursued Spanish troops across South America in the early nineteenth century. Although landscape painting was rarely produced in colonial Latin America, landscape paintings depicting select battle scenes were created during the struggle for independence. Artists and patrons of these artworks were conscious of the relationship between the landscape, which was simultaneously the backdrop and motivation for the fight against Spanish domination, and community identity as a lived experience tied to specific geographic places. South American battle scene landscape paintings documented episodes in the history of Spanish American independence as it unfolded, becoming the first representations of shared national spaces that served as the setting for collective histories of this critical period.
Michael Charlesworth’s (2008) research has demonstrated that landscape painting had a particular poignancy in the art and culture of nineteenth-century Britain and France, and, it can be argued, the genre carried considerable cultural influence during the wars of independence in South America. Luisa Elena Alcala (2012) has shown how landscape was a compelling visual platform in Guatemala where it served as a call to action for a cross-section of colonial participant observers. Rainer Buschmann (2014) theorized the economic potential of the Iberian Pacific through the lens of landscape representation. Carmen Fernádez Salvador (2012) stated, “In the eighteenth century, artists like Manuel Samaniego included generic mountainous landscapes in the backgrounds of their paintings, and the American landscape itself appeared in ex voto paintings about miraculous images. In the latter, due to the documentary purpose of the subjects, nature acquired the specific characteristics of local topography.” In my paper, I explore how topographically descriptive battle scene imagery participated in the configuration of historical narratives which were essential building blocks of independent nations. Experimentation with landscape painting on the battlefields of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries was part of an innovative artistic shift toward envisioning collective national spaces that have carried significance into the present day.
Was the machine represented in nineteenth-century art in Venezuela? Here “machine” is a metaphor for modernization and 19th-century technology (railroads, steamboats, the steam engine, telegraph, electricity, bridges and roads, factories, and mining). Our inquiry did not emerge from the history of art but rather within the context of the cultural history of technology, in a study on technological utopianism in Venezuela and, in part, influenced by our reading of Leo Marx’s ‘The Machine in the Garden’ (1964).
In Venezuela, during our national identity building process which began in the 19th century, Nature was not used as a unifying factor but rather the heroic figure of Simón Bolívar (1783-1830) and the feats of the War of Independence (1810-1824). Thus, according to the representation needs of the time, Venezuelan nineteenth-century artists favored painting historical themes and doing the portraits of historical figures.
In the 19th century, the landscape painters active in Venezuela were mostly European foreign artists who were not concerned about the “machine” in the landscape. There were several Venezuelan artists who, on rare occasions, also painted landscapes. However, they also did not care to portrait the impact of technology on the tropical landscape. Until the creation, in 1912, of the Círculo de Bellas Artes — a cultural center independent of the government — , Venezuelan painters did not work with landscape painting and when they did they also avoided representing the machine in the landscape; except for a few paintings by Rafael Monasterios (1884-1961) and Armando Reverón (1889-1954) done in the first half of the 20th century.
Our paper will present works by foreign and Venezuelan artists showing the natural landscape being modified by the “machine” and the historical context in which these works were made. Among the artists are the Danish painter Fritz Melbye (port and steamboat; 1853), the Germans Ferdinand Bellermann (built environment; 1844), Anton Goering (port and city; 1893), and Gustavo Langenberg Winckelmann (landscape with a railroad; 1896), and the Venezuelans painters Ramón Bolet Peraza (railways, ports, and lights; 1865, 1866, 1872), and Arturo Michelena (steamboat, ca. 1890). To compensate for the lack of paintings showing a technological intervention of the environment, we include blueprints and maps, lithographs of symbolic landscapes, and photographs of the “machines” in landscape extracted from magazines, brochures, and books published in the 19th century.
La pareja de retratos del matrimonio Cuervo Urisarri combina las representaciones del paisaje decimonónico de dos naciones vecinas (Ecuador y Colombia), a través de la muy común práctica de los pendant portraits, en este caso en un entorno natural y destacando a los esposos del matrimonio en primer plano.
Las pinturas permitirán realizar una aproximación tríadica donde además de analizar las representaciones icónicas del paisaje de cada nación, se estudiaran los personajes retratados en primer plano y por primera vez se estudiará la correspondencia inédita que María Francisca Urisarri y Tordesillas (1826-1869) sostuvo con su esposo Rufino Cuervo Barreto (1801-1853) así como las circunstancias que afrontaron como familia entre 1840 – 1842, tiempo en el Cuervo Barreto se desempeñó como embajador de Colombia en el Ecuador.
Para el caso de Colombia, el matrimonio Cuervo Urisarri representa a una familia en apariencia acomodada, dueña de haciendas e inmuebles en la capital, cuyo aporte a la historiografía parece resumirse hoy en día en la concepción del menor de sus hijos, el filólogo Rufino José Cuervo Urisarri (1844-1911).
Estas dos obras fueron parte de las colecciones que el Instituto Caro y Cuervo exhibió en 1974 cuando la Casa Cuervo Urisarri fue abierta al público general y académico. Infortunadamente las dos pinturas salieron de la sede del ICC en circunstancias poco claras, en la década de 1980 cambiaron de propietarios y terminaron siendo atribuidos a dos autores inexistentes en el siglo XIX: José María Villacís y Anibal Villacís (1927 – 2012).
Este díptico del paisaje decimonónico, con una pareja momentáneamente separada por asuntos políticos y limítrofes, se nos presenta ambientada en paisajes naturales de aspecto bucólico que evocaba la mítica Arcadia, caso pertinente de estudio que pretendemos compartir en el marco del simposio y con ello aportar una visión novedosa sobre las representaciones del paisaje en América.
Although Humboldt has been accused of fostering European notions of the precolonial Americas’ pristine state, his account of Mexico’s central basin details both pre-Columbian and colonial modifications to the natural environment. One of the “most agreeable,” he wrote, was the water channel connecting Mexico City’s central market to the agrarian sector to its south, a 17th-century viceregal expansion upon an Aztec waterway. The Canal de la Viga – a premier example of what Pedro Luengo calls the “canalmania” that Europeans exported to their colonies – was lined with chinampas. Humboldt characterized these raised fields as soil-covered rafts that rose a meter above the water surface. Though manmade and rectilinear, these “floating gardens” were naturalized by “vigorous vegetation,” both comestible (beans, potatoes, artichokes) and ornamental (flowers, rose bushes). Though Humboldt was not the first European to describe them, his account of the Canal de la Viga and its chinampas encouraged subsequent visitors to seek them out.
A hundred-foot-wide promenade had been built along the Canal de la Viga in 1785, and over the course of the long 19th century, this onetime site of commercial transport and agricultural production, recast as quaintly picturesque, was frequented by middle-class locals and foreign tourists. By the late 19th century, it was plied by pleasure craft and steamboats as well as the flat-bottomed trajineras poled by farmers taking goods to market – a transformation documented by lithographs, photographs and picture postcards; paintings by Ernest Wadsworth Longfellow and José María Ibarrarán y Ponce; and Gabriel Veyre’s early motion picture (1896).
In the wake of the Civil War, the once-familiar American South was rendered newly strange. Physically ravaged and ideologically malleable, the region was recast as a contact zone, and artists turned to the land itself as the primary site of redefinition. But as the terrain was increasingly replanted, primarily by formerly enslaved African Americans, those depicting it had a choice to make: acknowledge Black bodies, or erase both humans and their interventions, thus positioning the “New South” as terra incognita.
Edward Smith King’s The Great South, a series of illustrations and texts published in Scribner’s between 1872 and 1875, offers insight into the nuances, complexities, and lasting impact of this decision. Hundreds of wood engravings printed after drawings by James Wells Champney—the most visible Southern landscapes of the Reconstruction era—reveal conflicting desires to simultaneously dramatize the African-American presence in the region, and to negate their existence altogether. Reorienting long-held dismissals of Southern landscapes as pale imitations of a superior Hudson River School tradition, I place Champney’s images in conversation with landscapes of the wider Global South, namely the Caribbean and Brazil, teasing out parallel triangulations of agriculture, dominance, and elision. Ultimately, I argue that Champney’s artificially emptied landscapes, far more than his insipid, formulaic racial caricatures, were potent sites for constructing myths of prosperity and self-sustenance in the absence of Black labor—an ideological tangle of whiteness, nationalism, and soil currently making a violent resurgence.
Although not previously discussed, the emergence of the eastern Catskill Mountains of New York State as the most important early destination for landscape tourists and painters in the United States was closely connected to the concurrent development of the region as an internationally important center for the manufacture of leather.
The first large-scale tannery in the United States was completed in 1817. It was located in Kaaterskill Clove, a few miles southeast of the waterfall that Thomas Cole made famous in the mid-1820s. With financing from Manhattan bankers, local tanners were soon importing vast quantities of hides from as far as Brazil and California. Development of the tanneries required extensive logging and led to the pollution of local water supplies.
Landscape tourism and art in the United States first developed in the area around the Catskill Mountain House, which had hemlock trees but did not interest tanners because it lacked running water. In the 1820s and 1830s, the presence of active tanneries to the north, west and south of the Mountain House area discouraged both tourists and artists from exploring those regions. Tanneries in Kaaterskill Clove closed in the late 1830s, after they had exhausted local supplies of tannin-rich hemlock. Closure of the tanneries enabled second-growth trees to mature and local streams to clear. After 1845, the Clove became a preferred destination for a new generation landscape painters led by Asher Durand and John Kensett who were seeking inexpensive places to stay while they completed closely observed oil studies of rocks, trees, and forest interiors.
A pesar de que es una expresión artística poco documentada y poco preservada, la pintura mural en Colombia en el S.XIX se utilizaba en los espacios de la alta sociedad como un símbolo de estatus. Así, en algunas casas se encuentran hermosas pinturas policromadas que decoran los espacios de recepción con imágenes en los muros que representaran escenas pintorescas, paisajes europeos o grandes obras de ingeniería moderna. El ornamento era sinónimo de lujo, y las escenas extranjeras hacían parte de esta lógica.
Al viajar por el altiplano cundiboyacense, se puede observar una expresión artística bastante particular: se encuentran casas, muchas ya en ruinas, con pintura mural en su fachada. Generalmente estas no son grandes casas de hacendados sino pequeñas casas más humildes, posiblemente de campesinos. La intención de esta investigación es buscar hacer un registro de estas pinturas que en muchos casos están próximas a perderse por el paso del tiempo y son un patrimonio importante para construir la historia y rastrear las costumbres del siglo XIX. Así mismo, se pretende buscar qué tipo de imágenes se representaban en este contexto más popular: desde escenas de caza en el río Magdalena y corridas de toros hasta puentes colgantes y paisajes tropicales. El trazo de estas pinturas, muy naïf, nos da la pista de que no eran pinturas hechas por pintores profesionales sino probablemente por los mismos habitantes de estos lugares. Eran una ventana que contaba historias, un ornamento que habla de una cultura oral plasmada en la imagen, un medio de narración de historias propias al siglo XIX y de paisajes propios de nuestro país ¿cuál era su función y de dónde viene esta práctica?
In 1910, the Chilean government sponsored a large international exhibition in its newly inaugurated Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes to honor the nation’s centenary of independence from colonial rule. In response to this invitation, the United States government sent a large display of paintings to Santiago de Chile, several of which were purchased for the new museum’s growing collection. Writing about the exhibition, U.S. Commissioner John Trask emphasized the importance of landscape painting in the United States, manifesting its national characteristics as a “clarity of vision and firmness of purpose.” None of the landscapes acquired by the Chilean government depict an Edenic America; rather they foreground the interaction of human and natural factors, presenting the United States as a settled nation of agrarian wealth. This paper examines the metaphorical dialogue that developed between the works purchased for Chile’s national museum—paintings by Charles Francis Browne, J. Francis Murphy, John F. Stacey, and Charles Morris Young—and landscapes by Chilean painters Alfredo Helsby, Onofre Jarpa, Pedro Lira, and Alberto Valenzuela Llanos, who also exhibited and received awards at the centenary. Employing close visual analysis and comparison of individual paintings by these U.S. and Chilean painters, this study explores the contributions of one particular group of foreign artists to the development of landscape in the southern cone of South America. My work on this topic began in 2014 with the reconstruction of the 1910 exhibit for the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and continues today in an extended consideration of how agricultural land was used at the turn of the twentieth century in the context of national identity formation.
México y sus Alrededores. Colección de vistas, trajes y monumentos fue un álbum litográfico editado por el francés José Decaen. Fue un proyecto que se fue compilando (desde 1855) a partir del sistema de entregas. Su contenido consta de dos partes: una literaria y una visual que destaca edificios emblemáticos, costumbres populares y paisajes en la ciudad de México. Para su ejecución, fueron convocados escritores como Manuel Payno, así como Casimiro Castro, dibujante-litógrafo, autor de varias láminas. Fue una obra que alcanzó tal éxito comercial que se editó después en varias ocasiones (1857, 1863 y 1864).
El objetivo de esta ponencia, es ofrecer una lectura a México y sus Alrededores a partir de la temática del paisaje urbano en algunas litografías bajo los lineamientos teóricos de Richard L. Kagan. Pienso que gran parte del álbum puede ser entendido como una serie de “vistas comunicéntricas”, en las que se vincula la civitas y la urbs. De esta manera, los paisajes como “La Villa de Guadalupe” resultan imágenes simbólicas que a partir de la entidad física, dan un significado de los habitantes a los mexicanos.
La primera edición de la obra invita al espectador a acceder a la mirada ideológica de una ciudad que antecedió un conflicto bélico que generó grandes cambios como La Guerra de Reforma (1858-1861). De igual forma, por medio de la imagen del paisaje urbano, es posible entender que el propósito del editor fue otorgarle un carácter de particularidad e individualidad a la ciudad de México a partir de “lugares comunes y significativos”. De tal suerte, que hoy en día, el álbum de Decaen sea citado como uno de los testimonios gráficos que mejor se relaciona con la construcción de lo “mexicano” durante el siglo XIX.
In 1881, the U.S. Bureau of Ethnology published its first annual report to the Smithsonian Institution. The document included an extensive section on the “mortuary customs of North American Indians” authored by the naturalist H.C. Yarrow. This text describes practices that range from cremation to tree and scaffold burials. Lavish illustrations by lithographer Thomas Sinclair and painter Henry Farny complement Yarrow’s essay. These images, intended to other indigenous peoples, incidentally demonstrate the cultural relationships binding these communities to the North American landscape. In fact, the territories annexed during the Westward Expansion appear as an integral element of native mortuary practices. Moreover, the indigenous figures in these illustrations are not passive attributes of nature but agents who occupy and transform the land with ephemeral constructions and massive mounds.
This paper examines these illustrations against the imagery that deliberately concealed Native Americans’ interventions in the landscape as a means to legitimize the Westward Expansion. It analyzes how the tensions between these two visual repertoires and views on land ownership were resolved and sustained in the late nineteenth century. The paper also reveals the specificity of this phenomenon in the U.S. by (1) addressing the pseudo-scientific and systematic unearthing of indigenous remains during the late 1800s and (2) by comparing the illustrations of Yarrow’s essay to Moritz Rugendas’ portrayal of indigenous burials in Brazil. Accordingly, this study expands the scholarship on art’s relation to both territory-building and land dispossession and on the comparative study of indigeneity in the region.
This paper is part of a larger project investigating how American archaeological work in the Southwest gradually elides the history of displacement of native and Mexican peoples in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War. Some of the earliest American encounters with ruins and abandoned settlements belonging to Ancestral Puebloan civilizations occurred in the context of demarcating the new boundary between Mexico and the United States. John Russell Bartlett’s Personal Narrative of the U.S.-Mexican Boundary Survey (1854) is an example and is noteworthy for the way ruins are both a major focus within it and for how the author connects ruins with ongoing processes of forced removal. The recognition of a complex and often violent history of population movements that has continued into the present day is what drops out of later archaeological work in the region. This paper tracks how this shift is brought about through a notion of prehistoric time that is developed by privileging certain kinds of archaeological evidence (especially pottery and architectural remains) and certain practices of presenting and interpreting that evidence, looking in particular at the history of excavations in Chaco Canyon at the turn of the century. Much of the scholarship on this chapter of American archaeology has focused on the origins of the Antiquities Act (1906), as American scientists sought to exert control over sites like Chaco Canyon from investigation (and looting) by perceived non-professionals. This paper focuses rather on the points of intersection between professional and amateur investigations around the notion of the prehistoric and shared ways of solidifying its reality through descriptions and illustrations of ruins emptied of significance for contemporary native populations.
This paper exceeds the historical framework of the colloquium, by explaining how the patterns of Humboldtian 19th century landscape painting in the Americas have generated a conceptual persistence up to the contemporary production of artistic photography. A close reading of a significant example of the Mexican photographer Fernando Cordero (* 1958) reveal how the impact of Civilization in natural landscapes is represented via aesthetic modes of 19th century Romanticism. The analysis of the selected photograph, which shows the construction of a gas pipeline in the Mexican mountain landscape of Hidalgo, will be structured by six key concepts: first, an exploration of the landscape motives, as conceptualized by Humboldt and other theorists of 19th century art, such as Carus, or nature writers, such as Thoreau; second, the materiality of the image, including technical aspects of visual construction; third, the mediality (and media ecology) of the photographs which constitute visual knowledge of environmental issues; fourth, the specific artistic strategies of generating atmospheres (Stimmungen, in German, a key notion of Romanticism); fifth, the inherent animation of the image towards ethical engagement; and sixth, the continuing elements political iconography of landscape, from the 19th century to the present, in the context of the controversial debates on the Anthropocene. Nota bene: I have analyzed the work of Fernando Cordero in my recent book Transparencies / Transitions / Tapias (Mexico, 2019). However, in this paper, I do not resume this research, but present new insights, related to the interesting conceptual framework of the colloquium, establishing transhistorical and transcultural debates on landscape representation.
Cultural pathways between Cuba and the U.S. South became particularly strong during the nineteenth century as merchants and travelers moved fluidly between the two regions.
Despite their interconnectivity, scant art historical scholarship produced in the United States addresses nineteenth-century Cuba, and comparative projects between the two regions are extremely limited. This project focuses on art that was produced in support of plantation cultures and economies prior to emancipation in Cuba and the U.S. South, respectively. In comparing the pro-slavery works of each region, significant similarities and differences emerge that enlighten the specificity of slavery promotion in each place. While southern plantation scenes either exclude enslaved people or depict them as an idle, happy aspect of the family unit, Cuban scenes tend to depict industrious, albeit tiny, enslaved people working in technologically advanced settings. Although both sub-genres promoted slavery, the American scenes justified the hierarchy of the institution as naturally beneficial, while the Cuban scenes celebrated the efficiency of the system to entice additional Spanish investment and settlement. Cuba’s plantation scenes were colonizing in intent, while southern scenes sought to support the maintenance of the institution. A comparison that includes the Louisiana paintings of Marie Adrien Persac and the ingenio works of Édouard Laplante reveals how both regions’ works romanticized the plantation system and its tamed landscape, de-humanized enslaved African Americans, and exposed the great extent to which artists were implicated in justifying slavery.
Scholars often remark on a perceived lack of landscape representation in buffalo hide paintings by Indigenous artists of the North American Great Plains. Though Euro-American pictorial conventions like horizon lines, natural landmarks, and botanical details are generally absent, this paper locates an alternate, vital site of landscape in the tanned and textured surface of buffalo hide itself. Emerging as an essential source of both physical and spiritual sustenance for Plains people in the late 1600s, buffalo formed the basis for a collective sense of place. Painters rendered vivid scenes of buffalo hunts across buffalo hide with buffalo bone brushes, and together, the medium, support, and subject reiterate the animal’s centrality. In this sense, the skin functions as a metonymic landscape, indelibly evocative of its environment and the region known as “Pté Oyáte” (Buffalo Nation) to the Lakota.
By 1883, however, the buffalo were brought to the brink of extinction. The incursions of U.S. settler colonialism, international demand for buffalo hide robes, and climate change all contributed to the species’ decimation. Through a comparison of pre-reservation era hide imagery by artists such as Mato-Tope (Mandan) and Cadzi Cody (Shoshone), with later works on paper and muslin by Stephen Standing Bear (Lakota) and Wohaw (Kiowa), I will investigate the ways in which landscape and colonial disruption were instantiated at the material level. By taking into account the ecological, historical, and symbolic valences of Plains painting and its shifting supports, this paper offers a different understanding of contested “ground.”
In 1872, American photographer Solomon Nunes Carvalho embarked on a journey to the French Caribbean island of Martinique. While on the island, Carvalho captured photographs of the island’s landscapes, which are currently in the Martinique Album at the New York Public Library.
Carvalho’s album is unique, because nine of the twenty-six albumen prints—over a third in total—feature the island’s drydock facility in the capital city of Fort-de-France. This focus on
state-of-the-art maritime infrastructure complicates the nineteenth-century idea of representing the Caribbean as a palm-filled picturesque. Due to its geography and close ties to the metropole, Martinique often paradoxically straddled the line between tropical “exotic” and familiar outpost of France.
In 1874, two years after Carvalho’s trip, an illustrated article entitled “Rambles in Martinique” appeared in the January issue of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. Of the twenty-two engravings that accompanied the article, eight came directly from Carvalho’s photographs, yet none showed the drydocks that had captured the photographer’s attention. Instead, the illustrations for “Rambles in Martinique” presented a view of the island that was far more consistent with tropical imagery seen in nineteenth-century Caribbean travel narratives.
In this paper I will provide an art historical analysis Carvalho’s Martinique Album, focussing on his choice of industrial and man-made sites—from drydocks to cities and botanical gardens. I will also compare and contrast Carvalho’s views to those subsequently printed in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, arguing that these were purposefully selected (and in some cases altered) to present a timeless tropical locale to American readers.
En la historia del arte puertorriqueño, se tiende a recordar a Francisco Oller (1833- 1917) mayormente como un pintor de haciendas azucareras, a pesar de que la temática solo figura unas siete veces en obra, tan variada en estilo y sujetos. Pinturas como Hacienda La Fortuna (1885) y Hacienda Aurora (c. 1898-99) se han convertido en sinónimos del paisaje del azúcar en el Caribe, aquella industria que definió tanto de la estructura social de las islas. Símbolos de dominio blanco y criollo sobre la tierra colonizada del subtrópico. Sin embargo, hemos de tomar en cuenta el contexto histórico y económico en el que Oller pintó estas obras, la mayoría de sus pinturas de hacienda datan de entre 1885 a 1899. Estos años fueron el periodo paisajista más importante de su carrera, y fue uno marcado por la decadencia de la industria azucarera en Puerto Rico. Nos resulta interesante que haya sido durante este periodo de declive económico, marcado por la quiebra constante de pequeñas haciendas azucareras, que Oller se interesara por este sujeto. Queremos entonces proponer otra mirada sobre estas pinturas, verlas no como meras representaciones del dominio económico sobre la tierra, si no como una exploración personal del pintor a su regreso de España en 1883 y su consciencia de un Puerto Rico en la cúspide de grandes cambios políticos, el tronchado sueño de la autonomía y la invasión estadounidense.
For artists of the 19th-century landscape painting boom in the northeastern United States that is commonly called the Hudson River School, country houses were not only subjects for representation but also ways of structuring, inhabiting, and knowing a particular topography, extending practice beyond the constraints of oil on canvas. For Thomas Cole, Frederic Edwin Church, and Jasper Francis Cropsey, in particular, the process of designing and building country houses of their own was a direct response to transatlantic models of the creative country life and a core component of the practice of a transdisciplinary art of landscape to which building and gardening contributed alongside painting.
The differences between the three houses that serve as this paper’s case studies are significant, but, as a group, they reveal important patterns. From the relative modesty of Cole’s Italianate “Cedar Grove” to Church’s pseudo-Persian fantasy palace, “Olana,” and Cropsey’s learned study in Carpenter Gothic, “Aladdin,” these houses and the artists’ representations of them speak to processes of translation from European models to American contexts and from oil on canvas to brick and mortar. By considering the vision of domesticated landscape that each house represents and the paintings of the surrounding scenery that each artist produced, this paper will demonstrate that artists’ houses are a key context for the study of the Hudson River School, especially for an adequate understanding of the trope of the house in the landscape that became one of its most prevalent subjects.