The Artist's Mount Desert: American Painters on the Maine Coast

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In a panoramic narrative John Wilmerding has brought together individual studies of the artists who painted Mount Desert Island off the Maine coast in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Wilmerding demonstrates that Mount Desert has had an enduring appeal for artists and visitors, much like other great sites of national geography, such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Niagara Falls. This coastal region of the northeast captured the imaginations of several generations of American painters, and each ...
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Overview

In a panoramic narrative John Wilmerding has brought together individual studies of the artists who painted Mount Desert Island off the Maine coast in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Wilmerding demonstrates that Mount Desert has had an enduring appeal for artists and visitors, much like other great sites of national geography, such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Niagara Falls. This coastal region of the northeast captured the imaginations of several generations of American painters, and each generation attached its own meaning to the island. These changing meanings reveal both the history of American landscape painting as well as cultural concerns of each era. As Wilmerding states, "Part of the island's continuing allure is that a fixed point of geography can inspire such diverse visual responses and stylistic treatments as the romantic realism of the early Hudson River painters, the crystalline luminism of artists in the middle of the nineteenth century, the variants of impressionism practiced at century's end, and the new modes of representation in the twentieth, approaching aspects of abstraction." The figures most central to this chronology are the pioneers, Thomas Doughty, Alvan Fisher, and Thomas Cole, who generalized and romanticized nature in their visits of the 1830s and 1840s, Fitz Hugh Lane in the 1850s, and Frederic Edwin Church in the 1850s and 1860s. Each drew and painted extensively at Mount Desert. In particular, they recorded the northern sunsets in forms that made Americans give serious thought to the significance of their country's geography and its destiny. Other artists, among them William Stanley Haseltine, Sanford Gifford, John Marin, Marsden Hartley, and, more recently, Richard Estes, continued to come to Mount Desert and to find in its light, air, and rock formations the kind of scenery that inspired a rich diversity of visual expressions.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The rugged and romantic topography of this island has inspired a veritable "who's who" list of 19th- and 20th-century American landscapists, including Hudson River School realist Thomas Cole, luminist Fitz Hugh Lane, and modernist John Marin. Readers will be fascinated by the translation of simple pencil sketches into oil paintings exhibiting great breadth of style and emotion. Professor and curator Wilmerding is a specialist in the area of American landscape painting, as proven by his scholarly text. The volume features nearly 200 illustrations, 59 in color, and annotated footnotes in lieu of bibliography. Of obvious interest to collections related to Maine and American art.-Kathleen Eagen Johnson, Historic Hudson Valley, Tarrytown, N.Y.
From the Publisher
"Wilmerding . . . contends that [Mount Desert] is unique as one of the most inspiring and passionately sought havens for artists in America. . . . Those with admiration for Mount Desert Island and an interest in landscape painting will find [this] to be an engaging historical document. It is an encyclopedic resource for anyone wishing to cross-reference Mount Desert with nineteenth-century painting."—Temple Parker, The Boston Book Review

"In this handsome publication, noted art historian John Wilmerding conducts an in-depth study of various painters' incorporation of Mount Desert scenery in their works, exploring the intentions behind their style and choice of motif."—Grayson Lane, Art New England

"The rugged and romantic topography of this island has inspired a veritable 'who's who' list of 19th- and 20th-century American landscapists. . . . Readers will be fascinated by the translation of simple pencil sketches into oil paintings exhibiting great breadth of style and emotion."Library Journal

"Landscape painters have flocked to Mount Desert Island to paint its spectacular cliffs, coves, rocks, and sea. This accessible study suggests much of interest about changing attitudes toward landscape as manifested in the concerns of artists."Wilson Library Bulletin

". . . a theme-related scholarly volume from a foremost American art historian. . . . [Wilmerding] stresses the inspiring scenery, but his study can also be taken as a fine general synopsis of American landscape painting and the literary sources behind it."Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691034584
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 2/29/2000
  • Pages: 204
  • Product dimensions: 10.82 (w) x 10.08 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Table of Contents

I. The Timeless Place 3
II. The Early Nineteenth Century 13
III. Thomas Cole 27
IV. Fitz Hugh Lane 45
V. Frederic Edwin Church 69
VI. William Stanley Haseltine 105
VII. The Late Nineteenth Century 125
VIII. The Early Twentieth Century 157
Epilogue 173
Notes 177
List of Illustrations 185
Index 191
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