Boston Harbor, Sunset

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Boston Harbor, Sunset

United States, 1850-1855
Paintings
Oil on canvas
Canvas: 24 x 39 1/4 in. (60.96 x 99.7 cm)
Gift of Jo Ann and Julian Ganz, Jr., in honor of the museum's 25th anniversary (AC1993.229.1)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

Boston harbor is portrayed with the city in the background in this painting....
Boston harbor is portrayed with the city in the background in this painting. Rays of the setting sun intensify the entire scene, while the mid-ground reveals Fitz Henry Lane’s sharp hand in accurately depicting the riggings on each of the ships’ masts and sails. Lane was one of the most noted American painters of luminism, a style of painting that gained popularity after the mid-19th century and was characterized by attention to detail and diffused light.
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About The Era

After the Jacksonian presidency (1829–37), the adolescent country began an aggressive foreign policy of territorial expansion, exemplified by the success of the Mexican-American War (1846–48)....
After the Jacksonian presidency (1829–37), the adolescent country began an aggressive foreign policy of territorial expansion, exemplified by the success of the Mexican-American War (1846–48). Economic growth, spurred by new technologies such as the railroad and telegraph, assisted the early stages of empire building. As a comfortable and expanding middle class began to demonstrate its wealth and power, a fervent nationalist spirit was celebrated in the writings of Walt Whitman and Herman Melville. Artists such as Emanuel Leutze produced history paintings re-creating the glorious past of the relatively new country. Such idealizations ignored the mounting political and social differences that threatened to split the country apart. The Civil War slowed development, affecting every fiber of society, but surprisingly was not the theme of many paintings. The war’s devastation did not destroy the American belief in progress, and there was an undercurrent of excitement due to economic expansion and increased settlement of the West.
During the postwar period Americans also began enthusiastically turning their attention abroad. They flocked to Europe to visit London, Paris, Rome, Florence, and Berlin, the major cities on the Grand Tour. Art schools in the United States offered limited classes, so the royal academies in Germany, France, and England attracted thousands of young Americans. By the 1870s American painting no longer evinced a singleness of purpose. Although Winslow Homer became the quintessential Yankee painter, with his representations of country life during the reconstruction era, European aesthetics began to infiltrate taste.
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Bibliography

  • About the Era.
  • Gaehtgens, Thomas W. and Heinz Ickstadt. American Icons: Transatlantic Perspectives on Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century American Art. Santa Monica, CA: The Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1992