Friday, February 15, 2013

Cincinnati's Kilgour house and Mount Adams - This Time in Winter!

Ohio River Landscape / The Steamboat Washington
Ohio River Landscape / The Steamboat Washington. An oil painting (circa 1820). Used courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Schwartz, Paterson, NJ. Reproduced from Folk Painters of America (1979) by Robert Bishop.

As part of my research, I've been reading Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900: A Biographyical Dictionary, (2000) edited by Mary Sayre Haverstock, Jeannette Mahoney Vance, and Brian L. Meggitt. This 1066 page tome includes perhaps 10,000 artists active in Ohio in or before 1900. I've been reading it, seeking out all of the artists active in or before 1865.

Two weeks ago, I identified the painting shown here as a Cincinnati scene. At center is the Kilgour house, built about 1820. To the right, the city's first water works. At the left, Deer Creek empties into the Ohio River.

The Forest Queen in Winter
The Forest Queen in Winter. A painting (1857) by Martin Andreas Reisner. Used courtesy of Richard and Jane Manoogian. Image used courtesy of The Athenaeum.

This morning, while reading Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900, I came across a citation for this 1857 painting, The Forest Queen in Winter by Martin Andreas Reisner. The authors noted that, in 1857, Reisner "visited Cincinnati (Hamilton), a portrino of whose riverfont features prominently in The Forest Queen in Winter (Manoogian Collection)."

To my surprise, I was able to locate a high quality image of the painting. It appears to be based, in part, on the same landscape! Mount Adams is present in the background. The Kilgour house is present, just to the right of center. The Little Miami Railroad runs along the river.

Detail, Cincinnati Panorama
Detail, Cincinnati Panorama. A daguerreotype (1848) by Charles Fontayne and William S. Porter. Used courtesy of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

When compared with this photograph, made nine years earlier, it's obvious that Martin Andreas Reisner took considerable liberties. The commercial buildings are all gone - either he envisioned the landscape without them, or, perhaps, he was working based on an earlier view of the area. On the other hand, he retains what appears to be a bit of commercial activity based around the (considerably smaller) Deer Creek. Yet if we are to see this as something based on an earlier work, why the inclusion of the railroad?



This view clearly involves a bit of imagination and artistic license. This doesn't diminish its value as a look at Cincinnati in the 1850s. Further, given the rarity of winter views, it seems perfect for a day like today.

What do you see in it?

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