Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823 - 1900): Starrucca Viaduct

10/20/2021, 9:38:04 AM
Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823 - 1900): Starrucca Viaduct, Pennsylvania, 1865, oil on canvas, 56.8 x 92.4 (22.36 x 36.38 in), Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio, USA . . Jasper Francis Cropsey’s views of fiery autumn scenes captured the forests, mountains, and valleys of the northeast in a celebration of America’s unique, often untouched, natural beauty. As the nation grew, the human presence increasingly intruded on this natural beauty. Images of the railroad often symbolized this growth, seen both as a sign of progress and of the destruction of nature. Cropsey, however, often took an idealistic view of man’s relationship to the land. In this painting, a train and trestle blend easily into the surrounding landscape—the train’s white smoke echoing the clouds above—creating a peaceful scene of man and nature existing in harmony. In a celebration of both American nature and industry, Jasper Francis Cropsey highlights the Starrucca railroad viaduct, nestled in the Susquehanna River Valley above the village of Lanesboro, in northeastern Pennsylvania. Built by the New York and Erie Railroad in 1847-48, the viaduct was among the great American engineering feats of its time. Its scale dwarfs the old-fashioned wooden bridge in the middle distance that leads to the village. In nineteenth-century landscape painting, the railroad was often seen as a symbol either of industrial progress and change or of man's destruction and exploitation of nature. In this painting Cropsey seems to suggest through the reflective attitude of the figures gazing over the valley toward the train and by the dominance of the undisturbed foreground wilderness, that nature can absorb the effects of technology without adverse consequences. The composition's overall emphasis, however, is not on the narrative but on the beauty and serenity of the Susquehanna River Valley. Industry remains a small, romanticized counterpoint to the resplendent autumn foliage. (Toledo Museum of Art)

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