Drawing on the Susquehanna :
Four Centuries of Artistic Inspiration and Commerce

 

Curated by Rob Evans

Page 1:
Curator's Statement
Page 2:  
1600 - 1830
Page 3:  
1830 - 1850     
Page 4:  
1850 - 1899
Page 5:  
1900 - present

 

 

After William H. Bartlett (1809 - 1854)

Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806 - 1867)

American Scenery; or Land, Lake and River

Illustrations of a Transatlantic Nature

First British Edition. Published by George Virtue, London 1840

Cooper, Cole and the Vanishing American Wilderness

 

In 1823, following the success of his second novel "The Spy," emerging American writer James Fenimore Cooper released his historical novel "The Pioneers, or Sources of the Susquehanna; a Descriptive Tale." Set in the lake country of upstate New York that forms the headwaters of the Susquehanna, it was the first of a series of five novels published which became known as the "Leatherstocking Tales" ("The Pioneers" is the fourth novel in terms of the chronology of the novel's plots). Considered to be the first true American novel, "The Pioneers" broke new ground as it debated the complex forces at work in the new American frontier, specifically addressing the battle between nature and civilization resulting from the gradual encroachment of settlement and development on the natural landscape. 

 

 

Thomas Cole (1801 - 1848)

Landscape Scene from "Last of the Mohicans"

oil on canvas, 1827

collection of Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY

(not in exhibit)

Cooper's perspective on the vanishing American wilderness had a profound influence on his fellow artistic and literary peers, many of whom were members of the "Bread and Cheese Club," a group of intellectuals who met regularly in New York City to discuss ideas and promote the enhancement of America’s cultural independence. This circle included such artists as Thomas Cole, Asher Durand and Thomas Doughty, all of whom would subscribe to Cooper's romantic and nostalgic vision of the American wilderness, utilizing it to forge a new American landscape movement which would later be known as the Hudson River School. Cole was so impressed with Cooper's works that he completed several paintings based on Cooper's "Last of the Mohicans." Likewise, Cooper considered Cole to be "one of the very first geniuses of the age."

Many versions of Cooper's "Leatherstocking Tales" books were subsequently published over the decades featuring illustrations by some of America's most prominent illustrators including Felix O. Darley and N. C. Wyeth.

While the Hudson River would eventually lend its name to the title of this new American landscape movement, it's interesting to note that its roots lie in Cooper's writings about the lake country that forms the source of the Susquehanna.

 

 

James Fenimore Cooper (1789 - 1851)

The Pioneers, or Sources of the Susquehanna

First edition. Published by Charles Wiley, New York

1823

 

Thomas Cole: Head Waters of the Juniata

 

One of the most important and influential 19th century American landscape painters, Thomas Cole is regarded as the founder of the Hudson River School. Around 1820 Cole traveled for several years along the Juniata River and through the Allegheny Mountains creating sketches that formed the basis for a painting (now lost) which in turn provided the imagery for a widely disseminated engraving titled, "Head Waters of the Juniata, Allegheny Mountains, Pennsylvania." The engraving was first published in John Howard Hinton’s hugely popular 1834 book, "The History and Topography of the United States," which featured many fine engravings of American scenery by prominent artists such as Cole, and was re-issued in numerous editions in America and Britain by various publishers over the next several decades, reflecting a growing fascination with the American landscape. In subsequent editions, the engraving was occasionally updated by new engravers, resulting sometimes in prints of varying quality, and the image was often pirated, without credit to Cole, in other books and publications. The result, however, was that the image became quite well known, raising awareness of the Juniata and Susquehanna as a scenic and alluring destination for artists and travelers alike. The prints from these elaborate books were often removed, hand colored and framed by a newly literate and art hungry American audience likely unable to afford an original work by Cole or other artists of acclaim. So too, the images gained popularity through licensing to such well known manufacturers as Staffordshire potters in England, providing transferware china sets affordable by the public, enabling middle-class families to enjoy a perceived lifestyle similar to the more affluent members of society. The soup plate in this exhibit, with a red transfer of Cole’s "Head Waters of the Juniata", was part of Staffordshire’s American Views series featuring landscape images from Hinton’s book .

 

 

 

After Thomas Cole (1801 - 1848)

The Headwaters of the Juniata

red transferware ceramic soup plate produced by

William Adams and Sons, Staffordshire, England, c.1831 - 61

 

 

John Howard Hinton (1791 - 1873)

History and Topography of the

United States of North America

First American Edition. Edited by John Howard Hinton. Printed and published by Samuel Walker, Boston 1834

 

 

After Thomas Cole (1801 - 1848)

The Headwaters of the Juniata,

Allegheny Mountains, Pennsylvania

From John Howard Hinton's "History

and Topography of the United States"

Published and engraved by

Fenner Sears and Co.

steel plate engraving, 1831

 

 

After Thomas Cole (1801 - 1848)

The Headwaters of the Juniata,

Allegheny Mountains, Pennsylvania

From John Howard Hinton's "History

and Topography of the United States"

Published and engraved by J & F Tallis 

steel plate engraving, 1850

William Henry Bartlett: American Scenery

 

British artist William Henry Bartlett (1809—1854) was one of the foremost illustrators of topography of his generation. Following his first visit to the United States in 1835, he created sepia wash studies of prominent topological American landmarks that would later be translated into finely detailed engraved images for his hugely successful book,"American Scenery, or Land, Lake and River: Illustrations of Transatlantic Nature." The book was published in London by George Virtue, (with text by Nathaniel Parker Willis) in 30 monthly installments from 1837 to 1839. Once complete, the subscriber took the book to a bookbinder where it was often elaborately bound in leather or cloth covers. The first bound copies appeared in 1840 in two volumes.

 

This seminal work was widely disseminated and reissued numerous times up to 1870. Its prints were often copied (and pirated) by other artists, appearing in magazines, calendars and other books (see Meyers and Currier & Ives images in this exhibit). Staffordshire pottery in England issued a set of transferware china featuring Bartlett's views in their "Catskill Moss" line, including two Susquehanna images. The impact of "American Scenery" was enormous in helping establish America as a premiere picturesque destination. The Susquehanna figured prominently in the book with no less than seven images (all included here) depicting various scenic views along its course.

 

 

 

After William H. Bartlett (1809 - 1854)

Wilkesbarre, Vale of Wyoming

blue transferware ceramic pitcher

Part of the "Catskill Moss series based on images from "American Scenery"produced by William Ridgway and Sons,

Stffordshire, England, c.1844

 

 

 

After William H. Bartlett (1809 - 1854)

Columbia Bridge (on the Susquehanna)

From Bartlett's "American Scenery"

steel plate engraving, 1838

 

 

After William H. Bartlett (1809 - 1854)

Columbia Bridge (on the Susquehanna)

blue transferware ceramic pitcher

Part of the "Catskill Moss series based on images from

"American Scenery" produced by William Ridgway

and Sons, Stffordshire, England, c.1844

 

 

After William H. Bartlett (1809 - 1854)

Wilkesbarre, Vale of Wyoming

From Bartlett's "American Scenery"

steel plate engraving, 1838

 

 

After William H. Bartlett (1809 - 1854)

View of Northumberland (on the Susquehanna)

From Bartlett's "American Scenery"

steel plate engraving, 1838

 

 

After William H. Bartlett (1809 - 1854)

View on the Susquehanna

From Bartlett's "American Scenery"

steel plate engraving, 1838

 

 

After William H. Bartlett (1809 - 1854)

The Descent into the Valley of Wyoming

From Bartlett's "American Scenery"

steel plate engraving, 1838

 

 

After William H. Bartlett (1809 - 1854)

View From Glenmary Lawn (on the Owago)

From Bartlett's "American Scenery"

steel plate engraving, 1838

 

 

After William H. Bartlett (1809 - 1854)

View of the Susquehanna, at Liverpool

From Bartlett's "American Scenery"

steel plate engraving with hand coloring, 1838

Meyer's Universum

 

Herrmann J. Meyer and his father, Joseph Meyer, were German publishers of an illustrated travel series called Meyer’s Universum. Much like Bartlett's "American Scenery," the Universum was sold by subscription and featured detailed engravings of various topological and geographic landmarks, although the Universum's original scope was worldwide.

 

 

Joseph Meyer very much admired the United States and sent his son to establish a publishing house in New York. Herrmann proceeded to publish an American edition of the "Universum," but also desired to publish a new series of his own called, "The United States Illustrated." Unfortunately, the series did not do well, and Meyer decided to return to Germany. After the death of his father, he assumed control of their Bibliographischen Institut which is still in business today.

 

Various editions of the "Universum" included four Susquehanna views. Of the three shown here from the exhibit, two were clearly influenced by William Bartlett's similar images in "American Scenery."

 

 

 

Charles A. Dana (1819 - 1897)

Myer's Universum

Published by Hermann J. Meyer, New York 1853

 

 

Joseph Meyer (1796 - 1856)

Columbia Bridge (Susquehanna)

From "Myer's Universum"

hand colored steel plate engraving, 1859

 

 

Joseph Meyer (1796 - 1856)

Der Susquehanna

From "Myer's Universum"

hand colored steel plate engraving, 1859

 

 

Joseph Meyer (1796 - 1856)

Starucca Viaduct, Erie Eisenbahn

From "Myer's Universum"

steel plate engraving, 1852

Nature's Gems: American Wildflowers in their Native Haunts

 

Emma Catherine Embury (1806 – 1863) was an American author and poet. Under the pseudonym of "Ianthe," she contributed to the periodicals of the day, and may be considered among the pioneers of female literature in the United States. Her many poems and tales were afterwards collected and published in book form. Among these volumes was "Nature’s Gems, or American Wild Flowers in their Native Haunts" published in 1845 by Appleton, New York. This stunning gift book was one of the first to feature native American wildflowers and, along with Embury’s writings, contained 20 intricate hand colored lithographs based on pencil and watercolor studies by noted American artist Edwin Whitefield. Each of these images featured a landscape study in the background indicating the flower’s native habitat - six, plus the title page, being of the Susquehanna and its tributaries. The book is also notable for being one of the first to employ touches of color printing along with hand coloring. The copy of the book included here in the exhibit was from Whitefield's personal library and is inscribed by him. 

 

 

 

Edwin Whitefield (1816 - 1892)

Study for Title Page of "Nature's Gems"

(Background - near Falling Spring, PA)

pencil and watercolor, 1845

 

 

Emma Catherine Embury (1806 - 1863)

Nature's Gems - American Wildflowers in their Native Haunts

First edition, with illustrations by Edwin Whitefield

published by Appleton, NY, 1845

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After Edwin Whitefield (1816 - 1892)

various plates from "Nature's Gems - American Wildflowers in Their Native Haunts" featuring the Susquehanna River and tributaries in the background,

all hand colored chromolithographs, 1845

1. Wild Strawberry (Background -  Distant  view of Catawissa, PA)

 

2. Adder’s Tongue Violet (Background - View near Tioga Point, PA)

 

3. Wild Columbine (Background - Matanga Fall, PA)

 

4. The Wild Honeysuckle (Background - Fall on Buttermilk Creek, PA)

 

5.  Early Asclepias (Background - Otsego Lake, NY)

 

6. Azure Star Flower (Background - View on the Susquehanna, near Nineveh)

© 2018 by Rob Evans