Integrating Nature Essay

Submitted By ylaan
Words: 1070
Pages: 5

Integrating Nature

The nineteenth century was an exciting century for American art, because artists all over the United States saw so much change in their fairly young country and wanted to portray their lifestyle in these beautiful paintings. The momentous historical movements happening in the United States during this time impacted the painting styles of artists George Caleb Bingham and Jerome Thompson, who painted Boatmen on the Missouri and Recreation, respectively. Both these works of art, found in the San Francisco Museum of Fine Arts: De Young, displays American nature in different ways. In Boatmen on the Missouri, Bingham presents the men as the link between nature and civilization, and Thompson’s Recreation shows human beings living harmoniously with nature, while both shows a strong sense of nature and the outdoors in these paintings during a time of industrial change.
Bingham painted Boatmen on the Missouri in 1846 and the picture consists of three men, often called woodhawks, because they refueled steamboats that carrying passengers and cargo up and down the major rivers. The men here, like most woodhawks, are in a small flatboat on the river waters, loaded with chopped firewood and ready to fill up the next steamboat that comes by. The man in the back is shoveling behind the pile of firewood, while the other two men are closer to the foreground, one is sitting on a bench inside the boat and another is leaning against the pile of firewood. Then are wearing white shirts with the sleeves rolled up like working men, and hats to keep cool and the harsh sun from obstructing their view. Farther back towards the horizon, we see the wooded riverbank situated more to the left and on the right is a faint view of an approaching steamboat. Bingham paints the men with the most vibrancy, then next are the woodlands, and then the steamboat in the back, which is barely recognizable. The figure and background gets a little blurry along the horizon due to Bingham’s use of atmospheric perspective, which makes the foreground figures stand out more and look more vibrant than the rest of the picture. The position of the flatboat and men is somewhat in between the wooded banks and the approaching steamboat. During this time period in the American Midwest, major western rivers served as interstate highways as they transported many passengers and cargo for trade and other services. The river was a vital part of how people then communicated and thrived. The advances made in technology like the steamboat symbolizes civilization, and Mother Nature and urban civilization would not be able coexists harmoniously without human beings. Average humans, such as the boatmen, go back and forth between the city and nature to achieve that balance making sure rapid urban development is not overtaking nature. Humans also have a lot of power this way, and Bingham implies that humans should be cautious of the consequences their actions can have on the natural world. But there is always the possibility of humans and nature can live together as one instead of detached and serving as a link between civilization and nature.
In Jerome Thompson’s 1857 Recreation, he paints a picturesque scene of picnickers near Mount Mansfield in Vermont, with a valley lake in the midground and other mountains in the background. In the foreground, all the figures center around a large tree trunk, while some are standing, everyone seems to be in a pleasant mood. Just within the main subjects there is a lot going on. The man on the far left is gazing upwards are the woman next to him, as if he is trying to gain her interest, while she holds her tea and looks outwards, shyly away from him. The large majestic tree, which is the centerpiece for the gathering, draws the viewer’s eyes up and the down the trunk, to its delicately painted leaves which touch the sunlight and then back down to the main genre subjects. The flute player is is sitting down next to a woven…