Robert Scott Duncanson (American, 18231872)
A View of Asheville, North Carolina, 1850
Oil on academy board, 13 x 18 3/4 inches, oval format
Courtesy of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; museum
purchase with funds provided by the Susan Vaughan Foundation in memory of Susan Clayton McAshan. 2001.85
Robert Scott Duncanson was one of the most important nineteenth-century American landscape artists and the first African-American artist to gain international recognition. Duncansons A View of Asheville, North Carolina (1850), painted just as he began his career as a landscape artist in the 1850s, was clearly influenced by Hudson River School painters such as Thomas Cole (18011848).
Duncanson was born in Seneca County, upstate New York, and as a youth apprenticed as a house painter and carpenter. He decided to become an artist, and by the 1840s, Duncanson painted portraits and copied prints of old master paintings. Later in that decade, he began to pursue landscape painting, often traveling to North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New England, and Scotland. He took the Grand Tour of Europe in 1853 and returned to paint Romantic landscapes. His 1861 painting The Land of the Lotus Eaters led the Cincinnati Gazette to declare him the best landscape painter in the West.
The museum is working to expand its holdings of work by the historical figures of African-American art, and this acquisition is a significant step in that direction, said museum director Peter C. Marzio.