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    Sale 2171

    Important American Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture

    20 May 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 81

    Robert Scott Duncanson (1821-1872)

    Meeting by the River

    Price Realised  

    Robert Scott Duncanson (1821-1872)
    Meeting by the River
    signed and dated 'R.S. Duncanson./1864.' (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    19¼ x 31½ in. (48.9 x 80 cm.)


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    Robert Scott Duncanson holds an important position in American art as the first African-American artist to achieve national and international recognition. His contemporaries recognized him as the leading landscapist west of the Allegheny Mountains. Duncanson derived his subjects from diverse sources, many literary, other biblical and still others, as with the present work, inspired by his travels. Duncanson spent the second half of the Civil War period in self-imposed exile in Canada, "As the war waged on into 1863 the bleak prospects for peace and the deteriorating racial situation worried the artist." (J.D. Ketner, The Emergence of the African-American Artist: Robert S. Duncanson, 1821-1872, Columbia, Missouri, 1993, p. 134) Originally, he intended only to pass through Canada on his way to Europe, where he planned to tour his "great pictures." Duncanson ended up remaining in Canada for two years and his extended stay greatly influenced the local artists. "The Canadian art community eagerly received him, and he immediately became an integral part of the local art culture. Although he intended to stop only briefly, he stayed much longer than he anticipated, living in Montreal for two years from 1863 to 1865...Subsequently, a number of young Canadian artists emerged whose focus was on the landscape was directly influenced by Duncanson." (The Emergence of the African-American Artist: Robert S. Duncanson, 1821-1872, p. 137)

    Montreal and the surrounding areas offered Duncanson a vast array of idyllic subject matter. The lush Canadian landscape enthralled the artist. "While living in Canada, Duncanson maintained his usual artistic habits, sketching the summer and working up canvases in the fall for exhibition in the winter and spring. He brought his ambitious historical paintings on tour to Canada, but his attention was primarily captivated by the spectacular Canadian landscape. During both his summers in Canada, Duncanson sketched the scenery between Montreal and Quebec in Canada East, now Quebec Province." (The Emergence of the African-American Artist: Robert S. Duncanson, 1821-1872, p. 139)