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Adirondack Landscape [White Mountain Scene?]

Post-Civil War America saw a period with westward expansion and growing industrialization. Guide books such as Picturesque America (1872–74), featuring illustrations of the newly unified country's spectacular scenery, became popular. Smillie—a skilled engraver and landscape painter—was perfectly suited to meet the demand for such imagery. While it is not known if this large-scale drawing relates directly to any of his prints or paintings, he produced numerous similar works in the 1860s on sketching trips to the Catskill and Adirondack mountains in upstate New York and to the White Mountains in New Hampshire.

Although previously identified as an Adirondack scene, the peak seen in the distance appears to be Mount Washington in the White Mountains. Smillie highlights the dangers of the sublime virgin wilderness with its broken tree limbs and rock-strewn brook, while at the same time "taming" the chaos through his organized composition and carefully delineated forms.

James David Smillie
American, 1833–1909
Adirondack Landscape [White Mountain Scene?]
1868
Charcoal and graphite with white chalk on buff paper
Image/sheet: 31 x 24 in. (78.7 x 61.0 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 83.43