Alvan Fisher’s depictions of Native Americans in his landscapes were gleaned not from firsthand experience but rather through the writings of James Fenimore Cooper, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and other authors found in the artist’s extensive library. His earliest example dates to 1828, yet the vast majority were created during the 1840s, decades after the United States government began its policy of removing Native Peoples from their lands in the name of manifest destiny. Thus, as a romantic painter, Fisher’s portrayals are often instilled with a sense of nostalgia and empathy for the plight of displaced tribes as the country’s frontier expanded.
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Native Americans Crossing a Frozen Lake shows a group of figures clustered in the foreground, surrounded, and to a certain degree dominated, by the grand American landscape. The uniqueness of this painting lies in its portrayal of winter, which recalls the genre scenes Fisher created during the mid-teens when his career first began, as well as its possible depiction of Crawford Notch in the White Mountains, albeit with some artistic license.
Private collection, Boston, Massachusetts
With Vose Galleries, Boston, inventory no. 24664, December 1975
To private collection, Dedham, Massachusetts, December 1975
By descent to private collection, Lexington, Massachusetts, 2014 to present
Previous Vose Galleries label, inventory no. 24664
1). Keyes, Donald D., Exhibition Curator, The White Mountains: Place and Perceptions (Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire, 1980), illus. page 72.
2). Aldelson, Fred Barry “Alvan Fisher (1792-1863): Pioneer in American Landscape Painting,” Ph.D. Dissertation, Columbia University, 1982, illus. p. 729, Fig. 6.41.
3). Madden, Jennifer Yunginger, Seeking the Realization of a Dream: The Paintings of Alvan Fisher (Cape Cod, MA: Trustees of the Heritage Plantation of Sandwich, 2001), illus. p. 35.
1). The White Mountains: Place and Perceptions, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, September 8 – October 29, 1980 (exhibition traveled to the New York Historical Society, December 1, 1980 – January 30, 1981; and Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, March 6 – April 19, 1981)
2). Seeking the Realization of a Dream: The Paintings of Alvan Fisher, Heritage Plantation of Sandwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, May 13 – October 31, 2001