SAM Art: Sydney Laurence and the end of Beauty and Bounty
Our painters revealed to us the matchless splendor of a scenery which shall arouse increasing astonishment and reverential awe and rapture in the hearts of generations yet to be.
—Art critic S.G.W. Benjamin, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 1879
Sydney Laurence’s career was tied to the popular interest in the Alaska Territory that followed the Gold Rush. From the time he began prospecting in the area around 1904, Laurence painted there. His paintings helped to inspire tourism, and tourism in turn led to Laurence’s commercial success.
This is an early and impressively scaled view of Laurence’s favorite and most famous subject, Mt. McKinley. It stands as one of his greatest statements on this, America’s highest mountain peak. He painted this impressive canvas, possibly an exhibition piece, as the U. S. government’s Interior Department was working to establish a national park with McKinley at its center, projecting: “…the creation of this national park would, no doubt, result in… additional visitors to Alaska, and would give an impetus to the settling of the country.”
Beauty and Bounty is on view through Sunday, 11 September.