ROBERT S. DUNCANSON (1821 - 1872) Untitled (Landscape).
Oil on canvas, late 1850s. 610x915 mm; 24x36 inches.
Provenance: private collection.
This beautiful painting is a scarce, large example of important 19th-century painter Robert S. Duncanson's mid-career landscapes. The son of a biracial tradesman from Virginia, and the grandson of a freed slave, Duncanson apprenticed in his youth to his family's housepainting and carpentry business in Canada. A self-taught artist, he began his career by copying popular prints. Duncanson moved to Cincinnati, the city with which he is most closely associated, in the 1840s.
This painting represents a culmination of the many romantic motifs Duncanson learned to employ in his landscapes. By the 1850s, he had received extensive patronage and commercial success, and by April of 1853, he was able to embark on a "Grand Tour" with fellow Cincinnati artist William Sonntag through Europe. This two year trip was a considerable achievement, the first such pilgrimage for an African-American artist. In addition to the classical ruins of Italy, Duncanson was particularly influenced by the paintings of Gainsborough and Turner, whose landscapes he studied on his first stop in England. According to Joseph D. Ketner, figures relaxing in an idyllic, park-like landscape, the small waterfall and stream, the classical buildings in the background, and the billowing clouds are all devices Duncanson used from this period.
We would like to thank Joseph D. Ketner II, curator-in-residence at Emerson College and noted Robert S. Duncanson expert, for reviewing the work and for his examination report confirming this work. This painting is sold with his report, signed and dated October 21, 2009. Ketner pp. 71-72.