Monday, November 9, 2015

November... all the leaves are brown … A season for hunting historic vistas

As I write this, I am watching a gentle breeze blowing the leaves off the trees … and the sky is a hazy shade of winter, signaling the beginning of a time during which views of hidden past landscapes will be revealed, allowing an opportunity for following in the footsteps of nineteenth century White Mountain artists.  

Smillie Print
You can see an enlargement of this historic print on the stairway down to the Henney History Room. The view is from Sunset Hill, now the site of the Red Jacket. It was a popular spot for artists and photographers for many years.

Kensett Painting
The print at the library was based on this painting Mount Washington from the Valley of Conway by John Frederick Kensett, 1851.  It is now in the collection of the Wellesley College Museum. The painting was purchased by the American Art Union and made into an engraving by James Smillie, and distributed to 13,000 Art Union subscribers throughout the country.

Today, you can’t see this view most of the year due to the trees that have grown up since the days when this was a farming landscape and the fields were more open.  While the scene vanishes from view for most of the year, as Simon and Garfunkel sang, “Seasons change with the scenery” (or actually the scenery changes with the seasons) and for a brief time this will be a good time for peaking (hills and mountains) and for peeking a little into the past, allowing us to unweave time like in a tapestry at least until the lime green leaves of spring return.

Currier and Ives published their version of the painting around 1860. Later their image was used as inspiration for wall decoration in the Currier and Ives room at the Eastern Slope Inn.  

Currier and Ives Print
For more on these images, contact the Curator at the Conway Public Library’s Henney History Room.

With apologies to The Mamas & the Papas “California Dreaming” and Simon and Garfunkel, "A Hazy Shade Of Winter"

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