Copy after Thomas Cole's "Dream of Arcadia"
Robert Seldon Duncanson
On View: American Art Galleries, 5th Floor, Imagining the New Nation’s Landscape, 1800–1880
The African American painter Robert S. Duncanson was a leading practitioner of the Hudson River School of landscape painting. Dream of Arcadia is based on an 1838 painting by the school’s “founding father,” Thomas Cole. It typifies the style in its naturalistic details and romanticized vision of nature as symbolic of America’s national destiny. Its subject—the classical paradise of Arcadia—perhaps reflects hopes for a world free of the prejudice and strife of pre–Civil War America.
Duncanson settled in the Cincinnati area in about 1841. Cincinnati was then a hotbed of abolitionist activity, and home to a large population of free African Americans.
Oil on canvas
frame: 34 1/8 x 52 x 4 in. (86.7 x 132.1 x 10.2 cm)
24 x 42 in. (61 x 106.7 cm) (show scale)
Signed and dated lower center
Gift of Charlynn and Warren Goins
Robert Seldon Duncanson (American, 1821-1872). Copy after Thomas Cole's "Dream of Arcadia," 1852. Oil on canvas, frame: 34 1/8 x 52 x 4 in. (86.7 x 132.1 x 10.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Charlynn and Warren Goins, 2020.13.1 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, L2011.4.1_PS9.jpg)
overall, L2011.4.1_PS9.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2018
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What is the meaning or origin of the word Arcadia?
Arcadia is the name of a real, mountainous, sparsely populated province of Greece. The word has also come to refer to a utopia in which people live in harmony with nature. This was a popular theme throughout Western art history. It was especially popular in the new nation of the United States as a type of "hope for the future."