The geographical and historical differences between the three countries of the North-American continent have found expression in the diversity of spatial representations of their landscape artists, through the use of varying visual idioms. While geography is diverse, the artists’ intentions show similarities: in the United States, as in Canada and Mexico, we will find the same spirit driving humankind at each different moment to become acquainted with, to observe and to make use of nature. Works of art bear witness to the problems of conquering untamed nature and establishing borders, as well as showing the riches of nature and their exploitation throughout the passage of time.

The geographical and historical differences between the three countries of the North-American continent have found expression in the diversity of spatial representations of their landscape artists, through the use of varying visual idioms. While geography is diverse, the artists’ intentions show similarities: in the United States, as in Canada and Mexico, we will find the same spirit driving humankind at each different moment to become acquainted with, to observe and to make use of nature. Works of art bear witness to the problems of conquering untamed nature and establishing borders, as well as showing the riches of nature and their exploitation throughout the passage of time.


© CHIN 2001. All Rights Reserved

Rainbow over the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Rainbow over the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Thomas Moran (1837 - 1926)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Marion H. Conley
1900
UNITED STATES
oil on canvas
76.50 X 94.00 cm
© Smithsonian American Art Museum


Thomas Moran first visited the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (in present-day Wyoming) in 1871 when he accompanied the scientists of Ferdinand Hayden's United States Geological Expedition to record this unexplored area. By the time he painted this view almost three decades later, the frontier was officially closed, and Yellowstone had become the nation's first national park. The pale Impressionist palette, immense rainbow, and towering peaks enveloped in mist show Moran was less interested in recording topography than in celebrating a natural wonder that had become a national icon. After the United States was settled coast-to-coast and increasingly industrialized, such mythic views of the Far West became a source of great pride.
Thomas Moran first visited the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (in present-day Wyoming) in 1871 when he accompanied the scientists of Ferdinand Hayden's United States Geological Expedition to record this unexplored area. By the time he painted this view almost three decades later, the frontier was officially closed, and Yellowstone had become the nation's first national park. The pale Impressionist palette, immense rainbow, and towering peaks enveloped in mist show Moran was less interested in recording topography than in celebrating a natural wonder that had become a national icon. After the United States was settled coast-to-coast and increasingly industrialized, such mythic views of the Far West became a source of great pride.

© 2001, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Valley Farms

In Valley Farms, Dickinson offers Southern California as a promised land. Painted during the worst years of the Great Depression, the lush green fields show the continued fertility of the western land at a time when thousands of midwesterners abandoned their farms in the wake of devastating dust storms.

Ross Dickinson (1903 - 1978)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor
1934
UNITED STATES
oil on canvas
© Smithsonian American Art Museum


In Valley Farms, Dickinson offers Southern California as a promised land. Painted during the worst years of the Great Depression, the lush green fields show the continued fertility of the western land at a time when thousands of midwesterners abandoned their farms in the wake of devastating dust storms.
In Valley Farms, Dickinson offers Southern California as a promised land. Painted during the worst years of the Great Depression, the lush green fields show the continued fertility of the western land at a time when thousands of midwesterners abandoned their farms in the wake of devastating dust storms.

© 2001, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Miners in the Sierras

Miners in the Sierras

Charles Christian Nahl, August Wenderoth
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Fred Heilbron Collection
1851 - 1852
UNITED STATES
oil on canvas mounted on canvas
99.99 X 99.99 cm
© Smithsonian American Art Museum


Shortly after the discovery of gold along the American River near Sacramento in 1848, Charles Nahl left his native Germany and headed to California to seek his fortune. This scene, painted with his partner, August Wenderoth, who provided the background landscape, is the first-known oil of an early gold camp. In Miners in the Sierras, four miners are hard at work along either side of the long tom, a wooden apparatus used to wash the gold from rocks and sand. The vigorous labors of the two men in their red, white, and blue shirts are depicted with the skill we would expect of artists who had European academic training.
Shortly after the discovery of gold along the American River near Sacramento in 1848, Charles Nahl left his native Germany and headed to California to seek his fortune. This scene, painted with his partner, August Wenderoth, who provided the background landscape, is the first-known oil of an early gold camp. In Miners in the Sierras, four miners are hard at work along either side of the long tom, a wooden apparatus used to wash the gold from rocks and sand. The vigorous labors of the two men in their red, white, and blue shirts are depicted with the skill we would expect of artists who had European academic training.

© 2001, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Dust Bowl

Dust Bowl

Alexandre Hogue (1898 - 1994)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of International Business Machines Corporation
1933
UNITED STATES
oil on canvas
61.00 X 82.80 cm
© Smithsonian American Art Museum


In Dust Bowl, Oklahoma artist Alexandre Hogue shows the desolation that caused thousands of midwestern families to abandon their farms in the 1930s. Several years of drought, combined with overgrazing and poor farming practices, had parched the earth throughout the Great Plains states. When unusually strong windstorms hit the area in the early 1930s, millions of tons of topsoil were blown away, and choking clouds of dust darkened the skies.
In Dust Bowl, Oklahoma artist Alexandre Hogue shows the desolation that caused thousands of midwestern families to abandon their farms in the 1930s. Several years of drought, combined with overgrazing and poor farming practices, had parched the earth throughout the Great Plains states. When unusually strong windstorms hit the area in the early 1930s, millions of tons of topsoil were blown away, and choking clouds of dust darkened the skies.

© 2001, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Catlin and his Indian guide approaching buffalo under white wolf skins

Catlin and his Indian guide approaching buffalo under white wolf skins.

George Catlin (1796 - 1872)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.
1846 - 1848
UNITED STATES
oil on canvas
50.90 X 69.20 cm
© Smithsonian American Art Museum


In the 1830s, George Catlin traveled up the Missouri River into the Dakota Territories to record Plains Indian culture. Here, Catlin and an Indian guide, covered in wolf skins and with weapons at the ready, creep up on a herd of buffalo. The artist painted several versions of this theme, inspired by his lament that "the poor buffaloes have their enemy man, besetting and besieging them at all times of the year and in all the modes that man...has been able to devise for their destruction. They struggle in vain to evade his deadly shafts.
In the 1830s, George Catlin traveled up the Missouri River into the Dakota Territories to record Plains Indian culture. Here, Catlin and an Indian guide, covered in wolf skins and with weapons at the ready, creep up on a herd of buffalo. The artist painted several versions of this theme, inspired by his lament that "the poor buffaloes have their enemy man, besetting and besieging them at all times of the year and in all the modes that man...has been able to devise for their destruction. They struggle in vain to evade his deadly shafts.

© 2001, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Comprehend the way people and their landscapes are depicted in art
  • Be conscious of the emotional impact that is caused and shaped by works of art
  • Be aware of the commonality of themes in landscape art of different North American countries
  • Be aware of the changes in landscape art over time

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