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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Offering of the Day: A Sublime Western Landscape by Henry Arthur Elkins

Henry Arthur Elkins  (American, 1847-1884)
Western Landscape with a Lake and Mountains, 1872
Oil on canvas
23 x 44 1/4 inches
Signed and dated lower left: H.A. Elkins 72
Framed: 28 3/4 x 48 inches

In this tranquil scene, Henry Elkins captures the grandeur of the American landscape.  This is a painting about the sublime, wholly reflecting the ideals sought by the American people during the latter half of the nineteenth century.

From the moment of her discovery, America's history has been dominated by the push westward, mainly in the pursuit of economic prosperity.  From the first explorers to later immigrants, all have headed west in search of riches and as a result much of American history and art is dominated by the exploration of her land and, in consequence, her indigenous people.  In the search for prosperity America also found her very identity in the topography and magnificent of her landscape.

Fascination with the landscape of the West continued throughout the nineteenth and into the early twentieth century.  After the establishment of independence, artists began to respond to the need for a distinctive form of American painting.  Exploration of America's interior had revealed a wondrous landscape marked by its variety of open plains and majestic mountains.  The traditional European academies regarded history painting to be the highest art form, but in America topography was her history as exploration had guided the nation's course. It was here in the nation's landscape that her identity was to be found and was beautifully manifested in the paintings of Henry Arthur Elkins.

Henry Arthur Elkins was born in Vershire, Vermont and in 1856 moved to Chicago where he taught himself to paint and began to receive recognition for his paintings.  After the Civil War he was one of the first artists to cross the plains to the Rocky Mountains and he quickly became known for his paintings of Colorado and California.  Elkins career was sadly cut short by his early death in 1884 at Georgetown, Colonel.

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