View of Mt. Rainier

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View of Mt. Rainier

United States, 1886
Paintings
Oil on canvas mounted to masonite
12 x 18 in. (30.5 x 45.7 cm)
Gift of Reese and Linda Polesky in loving memory of Jeanne and Fred Polesky (AC1998.65.1)
Not currently on public view

About The Era

Until 1893, when historian Frederick Jackson Turner declared the western frontier closed, the nation had perceived itself as an ever-expanding geographical entity....
Until 1893, when historian Frederick Jackson Turner declared the western frontier closed, the nation had perceived itself as an ever-expanding geographical entity. The frontier moved westward as the forests of the Adirondacks, Catskills, and Alleghenys of the eastern seaboard were cleared and inhabited. Euro-American settlers pushed across the continent, through the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains, until they reached the Pacific Ocean. Although the actual travels of explorers, government surveyors, and settlers can be traced through the changing locales in landscape paintings, such depictions were to a certain extent idealizations. In the romantic-realist tradition of the Hudson River school, artists emphasized the primitive character of the wilderness and presented the newly cultivated farmlands as agrarian oases divinely blessed by rainbows and golden mists.
Artists and writers promoted nature as a national treasure. However, the wealth of the land was measured in commercial as well as aesthetic terms. Railroads and axes appear in paintings as symbols of civilization, yet they also were instruments of destruction.
According to some, the nation was preordained by God to span the continent from coast to coast. In 1845 the editor John O’Sullivan coined the term “Manifest Destiny,” referring to the country’s duty to annex western territories and exploit their resources. The same railroad tycoons and land developers who promoted such a policy also commissioned artists to paint epic scenes of the American landscape. Manifest Destiny ignored the rights of Native Americans, who had inhabited the region long before European settlers arrived. Consequently, it is not surprising that Native Americans are absent from, or stereotyped in, most of the painted views of the land they called their home. The West seen in most nineteenth-century paintings was largely one of the imagination.
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Label

Grafton Tyler Brown was the first known African American artist working professionally in California....
Grafton Tyler Brown was the first known African American artist working professionally in California. Trained as a lithographer in his home state of Pennsylvania, Brown moved to northern California in 1860, where he worked for the renowned printmaking studio, Kuchel and Dresel. Brown eventually began his own highly successful lithography company in San Francisco, where he designed and printed commercial advertisements, maps, and city views for local businesses such a Levi Strauss and Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. In 1879, Brown sold the business to concentrate on his passion for exploring and painting the landscapes of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. Brown’s View of Mount Rainier comes from this particular time in the artist’s career. Like his French contemporaries, the Impressionists, Brown was fascinated by the effect of light and atmospheric changes on a single, outdoor subject. He repeatedly returned to the same natural settings to capture them at different angles, and in different weather and seasons. LACMA’s painting is one of several documenting the artist’s studies of Washington’s MountTacoma (now Mount Rainier). However, unlike the loose, gestural style of the Impressionists, Brown’s paintings maintain the meticulous realist perspective and line of his lithographs.
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Bibliography

  • About the Era.