Whiteface in the White Mountains
Oil on canvas
Gift of Catherine H. Campbell; P.989.42.1
Whiteface in the White Mountains depicts in its distance a littleknown peak that lies near Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, and dominates what was then a relatively unpopulated region. Breaking from earlier, rather fearsome approaches to the American wilderness, Samuel Lancaster Gerry often included reassuring figures that travel through or recreate in the landscape, as seen here. The compositional structure of this work—a “closed” view of the anglers and stream at the left that gives way to an open landscape at the right—is a format that Gerry favored at this time and one that derives from baroque painting conventions. By the late 1840s the White Mountains had not yet been fully opened to tourists and tended to attract only the more adventurous sportsmen and artists. After his early experience as a decorative artist and a four-year study trip through Europe, Gerry opened a studio in his native Boston in 1840. He proved to be a versatile painter of portraits, genre scenes, marines, and landscape. Prominent in the Boston art community, Gerry was a founding member of the Boston Art Association (later the Boston Art Club) and served as its president beginning in 1858. He made regular sketching trips to the White Mountains from the late 1840s through the rest of his career, generally favoring the vicinity of West Campton and Franconia Notch. In contrast to this light-filled, tightly rendered composition that reveals the influence of Hudson River school artists, especially Asher B. Durand, his later work reveals his growing interest in the darker tonalities and broader brushwork of the French Barbizon school. This painting was bequeathed to the museum by Catherine H. Campbell, whose 1985 book, New Hampshire Scenery, remains an invaluable reference work on art of the region.
Last Updated: 4/17/09