St. Louis Mercantile Library


    Z_intro            Z_Kauffman

                                                                                       Theodore Kauffman, Westward the Star

                                                                                                            of Empire , 1867

In the early days of the European art academies, landscape painting was considered a lesser genre, or type, of art, because it did not deal with the human being as a subject, and so landscapes most often occurred as a background setting for historical scenes. By the nineteenth century, artists were reveling in the beauty of the natural landscape for its own sake.


Z_Lamasson_fire                 Z_Berninghaus_canoe              

Lamasson(Possibly Henry Lewis),St.Louis       Oscar Beminghaus, Solitude, ca. 1910

       after the Great Fire of 1849, 1849

In America, European artists brought these attitudes about the value and use of landscape to the young nation. Early artist/explorers documented events that would shape the nation, while later in the 19th century the concept of narrative-laden landscape painting would become a tool for Manifest Destiny and the validation of westward expansion. Today, artists continue to incorporate history into landscape, sometimes commemorating important moments of personal history, at other times romantically evoking the recent past and even presenting new visual interpretations of pivotal events that shaped our nation’s development.

These images, whatever their date, speak to us not only of the changing notions of artistic style and the capricious nature of historical memory, but also of landscape’s ability to represent our lives. As Ralph Waldo Emerson phrased it; “Visible distance behind and before us, is respectively our image of memory and hope. [Nature; Addresses and Lectures, 1849]

Z_Lucy_Yellowstone                   Z_martyl_perryville               Z_Wimar_JimBirch 

Gray Lucy, The Yellowstone: Evening Sky                          Martyl, Perryville Station, 1940                   Carl Wimar, Jim Birch's Grave,

   on the Missouri River, 1832,1992                                                                                                                                        1850's