Editor's note: The following essay was reprinted, without accompanying illustrations, in Resource Library on May 18, 2006 with the permission of Paul A. Manoguerra and the Georgia Museum of Art. This text is included in the book titled Georgia Inside and Out: Architecture, Landscape, and Decorative Arts. Proceedings from the Second Henry D. Green Symposium of the Decorative Arts held in January 2004, edited by Ashley Callahan.
If you have questions or comments regarding the essay please contact Dr. Manoguerra at the Georgia Museum of Art directly through either this phone number or web address:
The Weight of a Perpetual Creation: George Cook's Tallulah Falls and American Tourist Representations of Waterfalls
by Paul A. Manoguerra
tourist destinations, the cascades at Tallulah Falls, Georgia, and other
waterfalls in North America, especially Niagara Falls, stood as emblems
of unblemished and powerful wilderness. Adapting eighteenth-century British
definitions of landscape traits -- the Beautiful, the Sublime, and the Picturesque
-- and the work of their American forefather, Thomas Cole, mid-nineteenth-century
American writers and painters, including George Cooke, associated the American
landscape with a sublime present and future, in contrast to an Old World,
European landscape of the picturesque past. A minor goal of this essay is
to synthesize the redefinition of the category of "landscape painting"
that has occurred within the last twenty-five years in academies and museums.
Landscape paintings, including George Cooke's Tallulah Falls (fig.
1), no longer can be viewed simply as pretty, pragmatic pictures of a place.
The categorical lines that once may have existed between narrative, genre,
history, and landscape painting are more blurred than ever. Instead, this
essay approaches Cooke's painting as material culture, as evidence of human
history. As material culture, a landscape painting -- like a solarium, a
vase with arranged flowers, a potted plant, scenic or floral wallpapers
-- is one of the many ways in which "the outdoors" are brought
"inside" to be experienced. The central aim of this essay is to
examine the cultural history of a single painting, George Cooke's Tallulah
Falls (1841), and its context in late antebellum America. In images
like Cooke's painting of the north Georgia tourist site, American artists
encoded the values, beliefs, and ideas of antebellum American culture --
politics, religion, and a sense of history. Instead of discussing Cooke's
painting and other images from the era only in terms of aesthetics and high
art, this essay conceives of paintings like Tallulah Falls as participants
in a discourse of the concerns of mid-nineteenth-century Americans.
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