Why two ships in such a desolate area? Was it really so quiet there?
Great observation! Mount Desert Island was (and is) home to multiple bustling ports. Fitz Henry Lane strategically reduced the number of people and man-made elements from his composition to emphasize the landscape and evoke a sense of the distant past.
From this view point, in 1856, one would have been able to see many more ships, as well as numerous homes on the island.
Lane also made the island into a barren landscape, which scholars speculate also supports his "distant past" idea. In reality, Mount Desert Island is not tremendously forested, but does have many more trees that this painting would suggest.
Can you tell me more about this painting?
This is a painting of Mount Desert Island in Maine, one of several paintings on this wall that explore the way artists began to use light in the 19th century to explore concepts of beauty, the picturesque, and the sublime in the natural world. You can see that there aren't many people in the image. This is because Fitz Henry Lane purposefully reduced the human aspect of the scene. The island at the time would actually have had multiple homes on it, and more than the three ships you can spot here surrounding its shores.