Cultured Wednesday: Moonlit Landscape by Washington Allston

“One man may sweeten a whole time.”, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said of Washington Allson.

3 comments

One painting only again today, Moonlit Landscape by Washington Allston, another (18th and) 19th century American painter and poet.  Other than the Hudson River School landscapists whom he preceded, if only slightly, Allston painted timeless landscapes rather than real ones.

Washington Allston, born on 5 November 1779 near Georgetown, South Carolina, died on 9 July 1843 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, though primarily a portrait painter, found in nature’s vastness and wonder a fitting theater for the expression of universal emotion.

Moonlit Landscape 1809
Moonlit Landscape ,1809

In Moonlit Landscape, that emotion is almost literally portrayed, with the moon as the central, and only,source of light.  The landscape is illuminated by it plane by plane, starting with the clouds, the mountains and the trees, down to the water and the bridge, on to the foreground figures and even their shadows.  The world and its creatures are held in suspension by this silver light that struggles against darkness.

Allston’s landscapes are poetic constructions rather than real landscapes, landscapes of the soul, you might say, evoking an idea of nature and humankind outside of time.

We shall end this post with one of Washington Allston’s poems.

America To Great Britain

ALL hail! thou noble land,
Our Fathers’ native soil!
Oh, stretch thy mighty hand,
Gigantic grown by toil,
O’er the vast Atlantic wave to our shore!
For thou with magic might
Canst reach to where the light
Of Phœbus travels bright
The world o’er!

The Genius of our clime,
From his pine-embattled steep,
Shall hail the guest sublime;
While the Tritons of the deep
With their conchs the kindred league shall proclaim.
Then let the world combine,—
O’er the main our naval line
Like the milky-way shall shine
Bright in fame!

Though ages long have past
Since our Fathers left their home,
Their pilot in the blast,
O’er untravelled seas to roam,
Yet lives the blood of England in our veins!
And shall we not proclaim
That blood of honest fame
Which no tyranny can tame
By its chains?

While the language free and bold
Which the bard of Avon sung,
In which our Milton told
How the vault of heaven rung
When Satan, blasted, fell with his host;—
While this, with reverence meet,
Ten thousand echoes greet,
From rock to rock repeat
Round our coast;—

While the manners, while the arts,
That mould a nation’s soul,
Still cling around our hearts,—
Between let Ocean roll,
Our joint communion breaking with the Sun:
Yet still from either beach
The voice of blood shall reach,
More audible than speech,
“We are One.”

3 comments on “Cultured Wednesday: Moonlit Landscape by Washington Allston”

  1. Allston is quite a well-known name in South Carolina, one of whom (Robert??) was Governor there, much later. My family have vacationed at nearby Pawleys Island since I was very young. The painting and poem both are lovely, thank you. Did not know of this family talent.

    Liked by 1 person

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