William Marple, Missouri Landscape
with Mule, ca.1880
Paintings created by the nation’s early artist/explorers had focused on
documenting the frontier – even if they also at times glorified it. As more
artists traveled and studied abroad they brought current European modes of
painting to the United States, and these contemporary styles greatly influenced
the interpretation of the American landscape. A significant shift occurred away
from the objective, documentary and often monumental approach of previous
landscapes to presenting a more intimate, emotive and subjective interpretation.
Frederick Oakes Sylvester, Live Man, Frank Nuderscher, Spring Landscape, Dawson Dawson-Watson, River
Live Strong, Another June is Here, n.d. ca. 1922 Birches, n.d.
Artists accomplished these new aesthetic goals through technical as well as
stylistic means. Under the influence of the Barbizon School, American artists
began painting directly from nature – creating finished works on site rather
than in the studio. While for some artists this method led to greater
realism in the works, it also encouraged a greater appreciation of the beauty in
everyday life and the familiar landscape. Later in the century, American artists
experienced the looser, less meticulous brushstroke and vibrant, more expressive
use of color typical of Impressionism. In these works, the quality of light
and its effect on the color of objects became as important as the objects
R.H. Dick, Dusk on the Missouri, 2003 Edmund Wuerpel, Autumn Fred Conway, Elsah Bluffs, n.d.