African American Artists before the Twentieth Century
Robert Scott Duncanson, Landscape with a Lake (1864). Courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. / Art Resource, NY
Upon his return from abroad, Bannister began painting abolitionists' portraits, but he was best known for his landscapes in the Ohio River Valley style (influenced by the artist Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School painters). In 1863 Duncanson left for Europe again, but the Civil War forced him to travel first to Montreal, where he stayed for two years, quickly gaining recognition as Montreal's best artist and stimulating a new generation of artists to establish the first Canadian school of landscape painting. As with his landscape paintings in general, the 1864 painting reproduced here can be read as a commentary on the state of affairs in the United States. The muted tones and hazy colors, the drooping trees and ruined fence, the scene empty of people, the heavy shadows and threatening sky all reflect the hopeless emptiness and devastation of the war, at that point in its third year.