A Virtual Exhibition sponsored by the Valparaiso University Brauer Museum of Art Visit Brauer Museum of Art
Life as a Landscapist
The rising sun is heralded by colors most gorgeous and pleasing. The watching and expectant clouds, which are about his coming path say with tones of every hue to one another, "He comes," and they shout down to us in orange and crimson "He comes."Things that Cost us Nothing, Junius R. Sloan, Winter of 1859, Sloan Archives, Brauer Museum of Art
For nineteenth century Americans, a vast, unspoiled continent, both spectacular and commonplace, was being revealed as the American homeland. Until the Civil War at least, most American landscape painters celebrated this homeland vision as a symbol of America and of God's goodness. Junius Sloan was one of those artists; he came late and stayed long at this task. For him, painting the beauty of Divine order in untouched and pastoral landscapes had long been akin to an act of worship. Junius painted 'beauty for the joy of it.'
|Junius R. Sloan
Catskill Creek--near Leeds, 1869
Oil on canvas, 13 x 23 in.
Percy H. Sloan Bequest
Brauer Museum of Art, 1953.1.135
For Junius, painting the beauty of Divine order evident to him in untouched and pastoral landscapes had long been an act of worship and a career goal. For instruction, in August 1857 in Princeton, Illinois, Junius bought the just published book, Elements of Drawing by the British critic and landscapist, John Ruskin. Its Exercise VI inspired, seemingly, Junius' scrupulous drawing of trunk and boughs in his 1860 Tree Study. Further, Junius' July 2, 1861 sketch of an elm tree reflects Ruskin's advice to give close observation to the "decisive" forms of massed leaves and to their "softness of surface." In the mid-sixties, in his home base of Chicago, Junius exhibited such paintings as Small Falls and Esopus Creek.
For years Junius' early landscapes seem obsessed with picturing Ruskinian truths of particular facts. Then, in 1865, during a summer of field sketching in the East, Junius' landscapes abruptly softened for what Ruskin called "general truths of tone, atmosphere and space." Such truths are evident in Junius' 1866 prairie landscapes with their emphasis on the sky and clouds from sunrise to sunset.