Prayer for Death in the Desert
An American expatriate in Rome from the mid-1860s, Elihu Vedder often undertook mysterious or symbolic subject matter of a kind that was more prevalent in American literature than in painting of the period. Especially drawn to the theme of the isolated soul questing in a bleak landscape, Vedder here depicted a haggard man at the end of a search, yielding himself to an apparently tragic destiny. Although the artist later stated that these ideas emerged from “that rich, romantic sadness of youth,” he based his compositions on extensive figure studies and on-site landscape sketches, in keeping with his academic training in Paris and Rome. The setting for this subject derives from drawings executed in the vicinity of the dramatically eroded white-limestone cliffs of Volterra, Italy.
Oil on canvas
13 7/8 x 49 5/8 in. (35.2 x 126 cm)
Gift of the American Academy of Arts and Letters
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