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River Scene
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River Scene

Description Exhibitions Provenance Inscription Credit
Description An African American artist who undoubtedly faced daily obstacles and racial prejudice as a "free colored person" or "mulatto," Duncanson was hailed in 1861 as "the best landscape painter in the West." Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, Duncanson was one of several artists who depicted the Ohio River Valley and the vast North American landscape. He sometimes included ruins in his idealized landscape scenes, as here, which can be read as metaphors for the decay of civilization. In this painting, which has a misty glow and luminosity characteristic of his work, Duncanson also included several small, finely dressed black figures engaged in leisure activities, launching boats and socializing along the shore. Although Duncanson's paintings rarely addressed issues confronting African Americans, he imbued his depictions of them with subtle meaning. During his career, Duncanson achieved great fame in Canada, England, and Europe. Despite the critical acclaim that Black artists such as Duncanson, Edmonia Lewis, and Henry Ossawa Tanner received during the 19th century, no artworks by these artists or their contemporaries were included in Henry Walters’s bequest of art to Baltimore City in 1931.
  • From Rye to Raphael: The Walters Story. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. 2014-2016.
Provenance Dr. James and Paula Huffman, Louisville, KY, 2009, by purchase; Steven L. Jones, 2012, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 2012, by purchase.
Inscriptions [Signed and dated] Lower right: Duncanson / 1868
Credit Museum purchase with funds provided by the Eddie and Sylvia Brown Challenge Grant, and matching funds, for the acquisition of African American Art, 2012

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oil on canvas
(Painting & Drawing)
Accession Number
H: 27 x W: 40 in. (68.58 x 101.6 cm)
  • USA (Place of Origin)
Location Within Museum
Not On View


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