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: Two Military Landscapes


Minneapolis Institute of Arts



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
To its collection of nineteenth-century American landscapes the Institute has recently added two paintings which are linked together by the fact that both represent military landscapes by little-known artists. Here, apart from a certain quality of primitiveness, any similarity between the two ceases. The first is a View of West Point by the newly-discovered T. Chambers; the second a View of Fort Snelling by Seth Eastman.The Chambers' View of West Point is a bold and sweeping composition in which a sense of pattern is brilliantly displayed. The military academy is viewed from across the Hudson, a river which appears over and over again in the few of Chambers' paintings now known. Above the dramatically jutting banks of the river the prim white buildings of the Point stand out like sharp accents on a close-cropped lawn. The white is repeated in the sailboats on the river below, which swings off to the left to disappear in a bend.Chambers, who disappeared between 1820 and 1840, was hailed as “America's first modern” at the initial exhibition of his paintings in New York in 1942. Modern he was in his simplicity and directness and freedom of treatment, and there are few who will not be impressed by the freshness and vigor of this View of West Point.The Eastman View of Fort Snelling lacks both the freedom and aliveness of the West Point, but it is interesting because of its subject and as a record of Fort Snelling in its early days. The Fort is viewed from the south, with the Sibley and Faribault houses in the middle foreground and a line of Indian teepees in the immediate foreground. Beyond these groups the Minnesota River sweeps around Pike's Island—named for Lieutenant Zebulon Pike, discoverer of Pike's Peak—to meet the Mississippi. The fort, with the Round Tower visible in the center, occupies the bluff across the Minnesota.This View is not dated but presumably it was painted by Eastman while he was Commandant at Fort Snelling between 1841 and 1848. Captain, later Major, Eastman, was intimately connected with Minnesota and Fort Snelling, since he was co-designer of the great seal of Minnesota, and appointed to survey the Fort in 1857. He was a graduate of West Point and served both in the Mexican War and in the campaigns against the Indians. His military duties appear to never have interfered with his painting, and he is represented in the Capitol at Washington by nine pictures of Indian life and seventeen paintings of United States Forts. As a document in the history of Minnesota his View of Fort Snelling is an interesting addition to the Institute's collection.Referenced Works of Art
  1. View of West Point by T. Chambers, a recently-discovered American painter who worked between the years of 1820-1840.
  2. View of Fort Snelling by Seth Eastman, American, 1808-1875. Eastman was commandant of Fort Snelling from 1841 to 1848.
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Source: "Two Military Landscapes," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 33, no. 19 (May, 1944): 64-65.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009