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God's Country: The White Mountains in Art

November 14 - December 31, 2006


New Hampshire's White Mountains have long been a magnet for tourists, with many Cape Codders being among them. Now, the breathtaking beauties of the northern region are coming to the Cape, as the Cahoon Museum of American Art presents its holiday exhibition, "God's Country: The White Mountains in Art," from November 14 through December 31, 2006.

Featuring about 50 pieces by 19th-century artists, this exhibition will look at the way artists flocked to the White Mountains -- America's "most accessible wilderness," as art historian Robert McGrath has called it -- in order to paint awe-inspiring landscapes that would show the hand of God in nature. The majestic mountains became symbols of personal spiritual aspirations as well as national pride and idealism.

"God's Country" will also stress the interplay between art and tourism in the White Mountains. As artists' paintings were shown and reproduced, they helped attract more and more visitors to the region. Then, as the mountains became a very popular resort area, many artists spent summers and falls there, painting scenes to sell to the tourists.

Along with scenes of such mountains as Washington, Chocorua, Kearsarge, Lafayette and Moat, subjects will include Crawford and Franconia notches, Eagle Cliff, the Saco River, Lake Winnipesaukee and the Silver Cascade. Among the exhibition's highlights are:

A dramatic 1834 canvas of Crawford Notch by Alvan Fisher (1792-1863), a very early White Mountain painting by one of America's first important landscape artists. Fisher -- and many others -- were attracted to the area by the tragic story of the Willey family, which was entirely wiped out in an attempt to escape a massive mudslide in 1826 while their homestead remained standing.
Several major paintings by Benjamin Champney (1817-1907), who is considered the dean of the White Mountain School because of his many paintings of the mountains and his influence in attracting other artists to the region. He spent summers at his home on the Saco River in North Conway for almost 50 years, beginning in 1853, and gave many of them a warm welcome.
"Mount Chocorua" by Alfred T. Bricher (1838-1888), an important second-generation Hudson River School artist and one of the 19th century's last important Luminist painters. Tranquility, misty light and a tree pointing heavenward distinguish this jewel of a painting.
Two panoramic views by John Ross Key (1832-1920), the grandson of Francis Scott Key, the author of "The Star-Spangled Banner." With its snow-capped peak, autumn foliage and two boys whiling away an idle hour near a brook, Key's 1873 painting "First Snow on Mount Washington" can justly lay claim to being a quintessential White Mountain painting.

Other artists represented in "God's Country" include George Loring Brown, Harrison Bird Brown, John J. Enneking, Francis Seth Frost, Samuel Lancaster Gerry, Willard Metcalf, Alfred T. Ordway, John White Allen Scott and Frank Shapleigh.

An opening reception for the show will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17. Refreshments will be served, and composer/recording artist Silvard will provide live music on piano.

Samuel M. Robbins, an authority on White Mountain art, will give a tour of the exhibition at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 9.

Editor's note: Resource Library readers may also enjoy recent photographic images of the White Mountains.

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