Untitled (River Landscape near Chicago)

James Bolivar Needham, American (born Canada), 1850 - 1931



Oil on canvas mounted on panel

Overall: 12 × 8 1/2 in. (30.5 × 21.6 cm)

Frame: 17 1/4 × 13 5/8 in. (43.8 × 34.6 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Purchased through the Miriam H. and S. Sidney Stoneman Acquisition Fund



Place Made: United States, North America


19th century

Object Name


Research Area


On view


Heavily layered and quickly applied paint suggests that James Bolivar Needham painted this Chicago River scene from life, as does the painting’s small size at just 12 x 8 inches. On the reverse, Needham inscribed the date—September 3, 1898. On this day, weather forecasters reported temperatures topping 92 degrees. The heatsuggests why Needham sought respite away from one of Chicago’s notoriously smelly and polluted waterways.Needham was one of the earliest known Black artists working in Chicago. He exhibited throughout the1890s and reporters lauded his ability to find beauty“in the mud” of Chicago’s rivers. Amid increasing industrialization at the end of the nineteenth century, Needham embraced an impressionist style to obscurea rapidly changing cityscape.

From the 2023 exhibition Liquidity: Art, Commodities, and Water, curated by Michael Hartman, Jonathan Little Cohen Associate Curator of American Art

Course History

Geography 7.02, Into the Wild, Coleen Fox, Spring 2023

First Year Student Enrichment Program - Cultures, Identities and Belongings, Francine A'Ness, Summer 2023

Exhibition History

Liquidity: Art, Commodities, and Water, Israel Sack Gallery and the Rush Family Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, July 29, 2023-June 16, 2024.


Aaron Galleries, Chicago, Illinois, late 1990s; to Harlan J. Berk, Chicago, Illinois; to Richard Norton Gallery, Chicago; sold to present collection, 2022.

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