Landscape With Rainbow: Robert Duncanson Painting Was Part of Official Biden-Harris Inauguration Celebration at U.S. Capitol
“Landscape with a Rainbow” (1859) by Robert Duncanson
TALKING TO BRIGHTER HORIZONS, a painting by Robert Duncanson played a special role in the President’s inauguration activities yesterday. “Landscape With Rainbow” (1859) was exhibited at the US Capitol Rotunda and on loan for a day from the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM). Duncanson is the first black artist selected for nearly 40 years of tradition.
“Landscape With Rainbow” is a pastoral landscape with a glowing rainbow disrupting the skyline and illuminating a path for two distant figures heading for a house in a dense wooded area. The painting channels hope for peace while civil war looms.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Chairman of the Congressional Joint Committee on Opening Ceremonies, “presented” the painting to President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris during a gift ceremony that followed the official swearing-in ceremony.
Congress usually hosts a formal lunch for the incoming President and Vice President, and a specially selected painting is displayed behind the main table. This year’s lunch was canceled in December due to health and safety concerns from COVID-19, so the painting was included in the gift display.
Robert Duncanson’s “Landscape With Rainbow” is the first painting by a black artist selected for the inaugural tradition introduced by Congress in 1985.
“It’s kind of a classic America as a paradise painting that a lot of painters did back then,” said Blunt. “But for him as a black artist painting this painting, which looks so much like an American utopia on the verge of war that we’d be fighting for slavery, that makes it all I think even more interesting as he grapples with it, of course, a lot Challenges [he] was optimistic about America even in 1859. “
Alluding to a new chapter in American leadership, democracy, and governance, the symbolic gesture follows a disastrous presidency followed by an attempted insurrection by an armed and violent pro-Trump mob that flooded the Capitol on Jan. 6 and a second impeachment was crowned on January 6th 13th
The opening dinners have been hosted by Congress since 1981. Starting in 1985, with President Ronald Reagan’s second term, a painting served as the backdrop for the event, chosen to reflect the historic moment and theme of the inauguration, America United. this year.
The chairman usually selects the painting. Blunt said the first lady, Dr. Jill Biden, helped make the decision. “I like the rainbow,” she said. “A rainbow is always a good sign,” replied Blunt.
“Landscape with a Rainbow” is the first painting by a black artist selected for the symbolic role. Duncanson was the most famous African American painter of his day and was highly valued for his landscapes that rivaled the works of his American and British counterparts. He was born in Seneca, NY, was active in Cincinnati from the 1840s, first traveled to Europe in 1853, gained recognition in the 1860s (shortly after he produced “Landscape With Rainbow”), and died in Detroit.
Congress officials also gave Biden and Harris a few gifts to keep: two flags that had flown over the Capitol during the cursing in moments before, framed photos of the occasion, and large crystal vases from Lenox, a resident of Bristol, Pennsylvania Company glass company. CT
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Chairman of the Joint Congress Committee on Opening Ceremonies, “presented” a painting by Robert Duncanson to President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. | Source: MSNBC
A new volume, “Race and Racism in 19th Century Art: The Rise of Robert Duncanson, Edward Bannister, and Edmonia Lewis” will appear in July. “Robert S. Duncanson: Landscape Painter” comes from a series about black artists. Several earlier volumes are dedicated to Robert Duncanson, including “The Making of the African American Artist: Robert S. Duncanson 1821-1872”, “Robert S. Duncanson, Black Romantic Painter of the Nineteenth Century”, and “Robert S. Duncanson: A Centenary” Exhibition, ”a 1972 publication from the Cincinnati Art Museum. Duncanson can also be seen in “6 Black Masters of American Art”, the classic by Romare Bearden and Harry Henderson.
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