Painting the Dark Side: Art and the Gothic Imagination in Nineteenth-Century America
Weaving a complex tapestry of biography, psychology, and history, Sarah Burns exposes dark dimensions in the work of both romantic artists such as Albert Pinkham Ryder and Thomas Cole and realists like Thomas Eakins. She argues persuasively that works by artists who were generally considered outsiders, such as John Quidor, David Gilmour Blythe, and William Rimmer, belong to the mainstream of American art. She explores the borderlands where popular visual culture mingled with the elite medium of oil and delves into such topics as slave revolt, drugs, grave-robbing, vivisection, drunkenness, female monstrosity, and family secrets. Cutting deep across the grain of standard nationalistic accounts of nineteenth-century art, Painting the Dark Side provides a thrilling, radically alternative vision of American art and visual culture.
of this striking convergence of vision in the art of the poet and the painter? Cole and Poe, though near contemporaries, never met. There is no evidence that Cole read Poe's work, which until the I 84os was not widely known, or that Poe saw Cole's. The nearly simultaneous emergence of ruin imagery in their work may be coincidental. Both had access to certain widely circulated and influential sources, such as Constantin Fran~:.;ois Volney's Ruins (I 79 3) and the work of Lord Byron, notably Childe
Elizabeth Kuebler-Wolf, Patricia Smith Scanlon, and Kelly Ingleright-Telgenhoff, my supersleuth Indiana graduate assistants, whose resourcefulness, per- X Ill sistence, energy, ingenuity, and good cheer helped to solve countless problems, seek out innumerable facts, and track many an elusive picture. Colleagues here at Indiana and elsewhere facilitated the work in different ways. I owe special appreciation to Bruce Cole for his unfailing support during the years he chaired the Department of
year before Quidor painted his menacing black dancer. In this tale, bodily blackness becomes the medium of terror, destruction, and death in a fateful voyage to the farthest southern reaches of the globe. The story begins with a stowaway, a mutiny, and a shipwreck. The desperate survivors encounter a Dutch vessel and think they will be saved. As the vessel approaches, they see a "stout and tall man, with a very dark skin," who smiles constantly, displaying "a set of the most brilliantly white
astonishment as their master embarks on his wild ride. A little dog, flattened out in a flying gallop, races past the hitching post, and a long way down the street, a man flees. Neither dog nor man casts a shadow. Steep gables on either side of the street farther back frame the snorting charger's I22 THE DEEPEST DARK head, and lightning zigzags from the black clouds overhead. There is no middle distance. Everything is either up close or very far away, and the street behind the black steed
(OakKing) is a fiend who dwells deep in the forest and preys on hapless travelers. In Scott's translation the ballad opens with a scene similar to Rimmer's: 0 Who rides by night thro' the woodlands so wild? It is the fond father embracing his Child; And close the boy nestles within his lov'd arm, From the blast of the tempest to keep himself warm. "0 Father, see yonder! See yonder!" he says. 132 THE SHADOW'S CURSE "My Boy, upon what dost thou fearfully gaze?" "0, 'tis the Erl-King with his