The Susquehanna (At Hunter's Gap) by Granville Perkins, 1874
"The Susquehanna (At Hunter's Gap)" Drawn by Granville Perkins and Engraved by Robert Hinshelwood for Picturesque America, 1874
This Romantic image displays the grand expanse of Eastern America's lush landscape. A man pulls his boat to shore after traveling down the Susquehanna and the mountains spike upwards towards the heavens. Romanticism, which was an artistic movement that dominated the mid-19th century, focused on the sublime and celebrated natural occurrences, such as thunderstorms and tall mountains. Here, the Susquehanna is pictured. It is the eastern region's longest river, and runs across Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania. The river itself has been around since the Mesozoic era, and the Hunter's Gap would have been one of the many water gaps that sliced through the mountains along the river that formed long after the waterway's creation. The Susquehanna served as one of the important land markers to early Americans and formed part of the boundary around the land claimed by William Penn and was a crucial waterway during the Civil War.
In 1830, Granville Perkins was born in Baltimore, Maryland to two parents who painted recreationally. While they would help inspire his love of art, they did not suggest it as a career and instead hoped that their son - who spent much of his time wandering dreamily through the woods - would become a merchant. Perkins, however, insisted on following his artistic passion and prospered under the tutelage of Philadelphia instructor William E. Smith. As a teenager, he began working as an assistant to William's brother designing scenes at the Chestnut Street Theatre. With painter Edwin Church as his greatest influence, Perkins would travel through South America. He then returned again to Philadelphia to seriously pursue landscape painting under James Hamilton. He worked in multiple mediums, and was most famous for his oil paintings of the East Coast. He moved to New York in the 1860s to work for various publications, including the prestigious Harper's Weekly magazine. Later, he exhibited his work at the National Academy of Design and the Brooklyn Arts Association. Having had a vibrant career, he died in New York City in 1895.
Picturesque America was a lavishly created series featuring drawings from some of America's most prominent landscape artists. It was edited by the famed poet William Cullen Bryant, and featured various essays on travel. The work was born of the American desire in the 19th century to tout the young nation's greatest asset, the land, and to inspire pride amongst its readers. It also promoted greater travel and an appreciation of the natural environment to those in the city during a time of increasing industrialization. Published by New York's D. Appleton and Company, it was sent out semi-monthly to subscribers, who then bound the images together once complete with the leather designs provided by the company. This engraving appears in the second volume of Picturesque America, which was published in 1874.
- Onastasia Youssef