Expanding Horizons? An Examination of American and Canadian Landscape Representation, 1860–1918

OSHIO, Kazuto
Professor
English Studies

The purposes of our project are first to examine the exhibition, entitled “Expanding Horizons: Painting and Photography of American and Canadian Landscape 1860–1918″ organized by Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2009, and second to argue that this art exhibit makes a scholarly contribution to emerging North American Studies. It is a surprising fact that this exhibition has been the one and only comparison between American and Canadian landscape from mid-19th century to early twentieth century. This historical period witnessed the impact of such events as national division and unification on both sides of the 49th parallel, the construction of the railway opening up the western frontiers, and the devastating loss of life in the first global warfare. We can look at the emerging consciousness of “nature” in American and Canadian landscape art in these years, and can find cultural divergence between neighbors in an era of shared territorial expansion. Through the comparison of American and Canadian depictions of landscapes, the similar and differing intentions underlying their creation, their complementary yet distinctive compositional structures and styles, and their choices of subjects, the exhibition reveals much about both the similar and different meaning and value that scenes of nature held for each nation. Our paper makes a case that this exhibition of natural landscape artists’ work did not just passively record scenes at critical period in the history of both the United States and Canada but also has very important implications for the scholarship of North American Studies.

The Maple Leaf and Eagle Conference, University of Helsinki, Finland, 19 May 2016. (with Gail Evans)

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