ca. 1855–63
oil on canvas
United States
Unframed: 14 1/2 × 22 5/8 in. (36.83 × 57.47 cm)
Framed: 24 1/2 × 32 1/8 × 4 1/2 in. (62.23 × 81.6 × 11.43 cm)

The focal point of The Quarry is a bold cliff that rises above a waterfall’s pool. Beyond other rock formations, a field dotted with haystacks and a village at the foot of distant mountains appear indistinct with atmospheric haze. In an otherwise bucolic setting, a plume of factory smoke suggests technological and economic development.

Duncanson was a free African American who established an international reputation during the tumultuous decades surrounding the Civil War. Self-taught, he came to the attention of abolitionist leaders, who sponsored his study in Europe. By 1861, the Cincinnati-based artist was hailed in the American press as “the best landscape painter in the West.” At the height of his career, Duncanson successfully toured his paintings in England and Scotland. Self-exiled in Montreal during the war, the artist also helped launch a Canadian landscape movement.

Gift of the Council of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, in commemoration of its Fiftieth Anniversary
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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