Tuesday, January 11, 2011

illustrating american scenery by james h. chapman

by Charles Lanman
      It was when Washington Irving was speaking of Charles Lanman as an author, many years ago, that the latter was designated as the "Picturesque Explorer of the United States." It was that compliment, undoubtedly, that caused the author to utilize the pencil as well as the pen, and to produce a set of one thousand works of art which have attracted the attention of the public. They are attractive as works of the pencil, and unique as illustrating the scenery of the United States and a large part of Canada and New Brunswick. He was a lover of art from his childhood, and during a sojourn of ten years as a clerk in New York he began the use of the pencil as an amateur, and his friendly intercourse with Cole, Durand, Huntington, Church, and Kensett did much to make him a landscape-painter by profession. It was at that time that he conceived the idea that an elaborate collection of sketches of American scenery ought to be produced, and appointing himself to that duty he travelled extensively into all the interesting regions of the country. His plan was to produce pictures of characteristic scenery, painted at one sitting, directly from nature. They were executed in oil, on tablets of oiled paper.
     Among the pictures of his own painting which Mr. Lanman takes pleasure in exhibiting to his friends, because of certain incidents connected with them, are the following: "Indian Cabin at St. Paul, Minn.," which was painted when the artist could only secure for his supper a young raccoon which he had killed within the limits of the great city of to-day; "The Sague-nay River in Canada," painted when the bark canoe was the only means of transportation on that river, and about which the artist was the first to publish a full description in a successful volume; "Home of a Hermit Woman," which was painted on the South Potomac, in Western Virginia, the occupant being an old woman one hundred and twelve years of age, whose nearest neighbor was twenty miles away, who had herself built the rude fence around her cabin, and who claimed that she had frequently driven bears from her door with the handle of a broom; "Going West"-this was a prairie scene in Western Minnesota, with a train of cars crossing the plain and also a herd of buffaloes pursued by Indian hunters; when painted, this domain was inhabited by Indians, while to-day it is covered with highly cultivated farms; "Home of a Mississippi Planter"--this was a large log cabin on the borders of a primeval forest, the owner of which was worth $200,000, yet lived here with a large family.